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Unformatted text preview: tested research-based
practices.16 The inset shows a
figure accompanying a typical
FCI question: Students are
asked which path the ball will
follow upon exiting the tube.
(Adapted from ref. 7.) nized, cognitive principles about how people
Our third topic is
research on students’
general beliefs about
physics and problem
solving in physics. Research groups including our own have studied these beliefs
through extensive interviews and well-tested surveys.11
These surveys measure where students’ thinking lies on
the expert–novice scale discussed above, and how their
views are changed by taking a physics course. The surveys
have now been given to many thousands of students at the
beginning and end of introductory physics courses at many
different institutions. After instruction, students, on average, are found to be less expert-like in their thinking than
before. They see physics as less connected to the real world,
less interesting, and more as something to be memorized
without understanding. This is true in almost all courses,
including those with teaching practices that have substantially improved conceptual mastery. If it is any consolation to physics teachers, we have measured similar results from introductory chemistry courses.
The examples we have discussed are just a few from
a large body of research on the effectiveness of the traditional approach to teaching physics. The definitive conclusion is that no matter how “good” the teacher, typical
students in a traditionally taught course are learning by
rote, memorizing facts and recipes for problem solving;
they are not gaining a true understanding. Equally unfortunate is that in spite of the best efforts of teachers, typical students are also learning that physics is boring and
irrelevant to understanding the world around them. A better approach
Is there a way to teach physics that does not produce such
dismal results for the typical student? Our answer, and
that of many others doing research in physics education, is
unequivocally yes. Many of the same methods that have
worked so well for advancing physics research also improve
physics education. These methods include basing teaching
practices and principles on research and data rather than
on tradition or anecdote; using new technology tools effectively; and disseminating and copying proven results. Considerable evidence shows that this approach works. Classes
using research-based teaching practices have shown dramatic increases in retention of information, doubling of
scores on the FCI and other conceptual tests, and elimination of negative shifts in beliefs about physics.
November 2005 Physics Today 37 Figure 3. Counterintuitive facts are not retained by lecture students. Fifteen minutes after being explicitly told
that it is the back of the violin that produces the sound,
students were given the boxed multiple-choice question. The histogram of their respons...
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This note was uploaded on 12/20/2011 for the course PHYS 208 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at University of Delaware.
- Fall '08