how people learn

The burden of proof: What does education research really tell us?

February 25, 2009

UPDATE: I’ve just posted a new article about how educational innovations do (and don’t) spread around. Do active learning strategies work? This article — and especially the lively discussion in the comments — argue about why college instructors aren’t using active learning strategies, and whether there is evidence that such strategies work.  He says: People […]

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New ways to assess your students’ learning

February 12, 2009

Why is it that we make tests multiple choice, when the world isn’t multiple choice?  We’re not an industrial society anymore, where following directions is the key to success.  Instead, we’re problem-solvers, and knowledge is the important commodity.  But our education system hasn’t quite caught up with this shift.  We’re still testing our students like […]

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Explanations are important

February 12, 2009

So try this.  Instead of trying to come up with the right answer (and rewarding that), require students to come up with 3 “crazy ideas” for what is happening .  A crazy idea (for the earlier experiment with the horizontal and vertical motion) could be that there’s a magnet in the cart.  Or that it […]

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Do your students have trouble with the normal force?

February 12, 2009

A lot of students will say that if you put a bowling ball on the table, there’s no “normal force” – the table is just “in the way.”  So try this first, says Eugenia Etkina. Have them hold a bowling ball and a tennis ball. Now draw a picture, using arrows, showing what their hand […]

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What do you believe about how people learn?

February 12, 2009

[Session:  Eugenia Etkina – Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)] What you believe about how people learn, and about the role of teachers and students is in the classroom, WILL affect your teaching. For example, do you believe that a student misconception is something that needs to be eradicated with a clear example that clears up the […]

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Don’t just teach teachers how to teach — teach them how to teach PHYSICS

February 12, 2009

[Session:  Eugenia Etkina – Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)] There are some major problems with the current approach to teacher education in this country.  There is a strong sense that all you need to teach is to know the content.  That’s why a graduate student can get their PhD and then go on to teach as […]

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Classroom Clickers and the Cost of Technology

February 11, 2009

There’s been a quite interesting (and sometimes vitriolic) exchange of ideas on the usefulness (and cost) of clickers in college classrooms, in which I recently took part.  A “clicker,” for those of you who haven’t heard of them yet, is just a little device which lets an instructor take a real-time poll of the class.  […]

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Let’s Find Out!

February 10, 2009

We’re up to Episode 67 of the Science Teaching Tips podcast! Woo hoo, over a year of science education podcasts!  This one is with one of the most brilliant folks at the Exploratorium (and that’s saying a lot) — Dr. Thomas Humphrey makes my brain spin.  And it’s because he’s just so interested in so […]

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How do I teach physics?

December 30, 2008

I finally just checked out the Pathways Project, which provides pre-recorded video answers to your questions about how to teach physics.  Color me impressed.  I chose a teacher from the drop-down menu and asked a question — in my case, “How do I teach electrostatics?”   I was told that my chosen teacher (Paul Hewitt) […]

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Mastery learning in K-12 classrooms

December 12, 2008

Two local teachers in Colorado (Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams)  just put together a wonderful little video about how they completely transformed their high school chemistry classrooms, so that students would actually master the material.  In the video, two dynamic presenters show and talk about how they used video podcasts to make better use of […]

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How to write assessments for students to learn how to learn

November 20, 2008

This is the last in a series of three posts on Dan Schwartz’s work on preparation for future learning, or helping students learn skills instead of rote facts so that they can apply their knowledge to new situations. All pictures in this post are courtesy of Dan Schwartz. Contrasting cases In the previous post, I […]

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Another example of a Preparation for Future Learning activity (density)

November 17, 2008

In my last post, I wrote at length about Dan Schwartz’s work about teaching students how to learn by having them create a solution to a problem before you give them the standard lecture about how to solve that kind of problem. I wanted to give you an example of this kind of “Preparation for […]

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Hey neat! (OR The importance of hooking your students’ interest)

November 7, 2008

I had the great pleasure to work at the Exploratorium with a wide variety of master teachers, each with their own unique style.  I learned something new from each one of them.  What I learned most from Modesto Tamez —  who taught K-12 science with aplomb for 18 years — was about how to work […]

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New approaches to learning physics

November 3, 2008

Here is a nice video about how MIT has transformed their undergraduate physics classes using group work. This has been a very successful approach, though not without its critics. You can see my previous post on Twisting the Ivory Tower to see more about reforms in undergraduate courses, including this SCALE-UP approach. I have another […]

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A time for telling

October 10, 2008

“A Time for Telling” is the title of one of my favorite papers of Dan Schwartz (Professor of Education at Stanford). In it, he argues that lecture isn’t all bad. We complain that lecture (or “direct instruction” in ed-speak) doesn’t result in a lot of learning for our students. This has been shown again and […]

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Watering the garden of future teachers (TA training)

September 22, 2008

There was an interesting post, and comment thread, over at Built on Facts — on How to Be a Good TA. I’ve been wanting to respond to it for two weeks and have been too busy. It is interesting that this discussion came up just as I was forwarded a great article about TA Training […]

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Electron band structure in Germanium, my ass

September 18, 2008

I didn’t come up with that title.  That’s the title of a lab report turned in by a disgruntled physics major after the obligatory upper-division laboratory.  It’s kinda famous in the physics circuit.  Read it.  It’s funny. Quotable quote: Check this shit out (Fig. 1). That’s bonafide, 100%-real data, my friends. I took it myself […]

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Nobody’s ever taught you anything

September 15, 2008

We remember these great teachers who have taught us so much about the world. But did they really? Some educators firmly believe that you can’t teach someone anything — rather, they have to learn it for themselves. A great teacher is someone who helps make that happen. A great teacher is a facilitator of learning […]

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Everyday language helps students learn

August 29, 2008

A new study at Stanford finds that using everyday language helped students learn. The results are only preliminary, since it was a small study and they don’t have a lot of data on students’ english language proficiency, but it is still an interesting and promising bit of research. An excerpt from the Stanford Report tells […]

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Using Wikis in the K-12 classroom

August 26, 2008

I just wanted to direct my K-12 teacher readers to a really nice post from one of the NSDL sponsored blogs “Exemplary Resources for Middle School Math and Science” about using wikis in the K-12 classroom. Here’s an excerpt: Wikis in the Classroom Let’s take the course of study mentioned above as the example: Start […]

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