Date: Feb 25, 2011 8:40 AM
Author: Mark Hammond
Subject: Re: Pseudoteaching

I appreciate your demand for more scientific rigor in analyzing our teaching. Let's see if a physicist can help. Trying to analyze quantitatively a single lesson is tough. What about a whole year? I started out teaching with the standard textbook reading followed by lecture followed by homework practice problems followed by laboratory experience sequence. Just the way I was taught. Force Concept Inventory (given before and after the course) scores averaged in the mid to upper 60's (very good, but not so unusual with highly motivated students with strong mathematics backgrounds). I was not satisfied... I felt my students were missing too many obvious basics by the end of the year.

I first tried to slow down... while my first years of teaching were in no way "mile wide inch deep" I thought that perhaps spending more time on the fundamentals of energy and Newton's Laws would help. Results as measured by the FCI were no different.

I then went with more of an inquiry approach. I created my own materials (well, with MUCH help from a colleague... WE created our materials) based off of the Physics By Inquiry materials from U of Washington.

So, hold your hats... the results as measured by the FCI? Not much difference. A bit higher, but not significantly different. More pseudoteaching? Very different teaching, but not what I was looking for in the form of results.

Then I took a summer course on Modeling Instruction. I modified my materials again, used some of the Modeling instruction materials, created some totally new stuff (much with the help of some of the people contributing to all this pseudoteaching buzz). The results were a great increase the effectiveness of my teaching (at least as measured by the FCI). My classes have now achieved average FCI scores of over 80% (very rare for high school courses) two years running, and there is no difference between my colleague's classes scores and mine.

It appears that we have made a difference in our teaching, as measured by a widely accepted standard (the FCI).

As for this thread, I am uncomfortable with some of the language. We need to be able to disagree and discuss without getting personal. And to condemn someone for going back to graduate school is confusing to me. If anyone I know exudes the spirit of "I need to improve my teaching, I'm not done yet," it is Dan Meyer. To suggest that he's figured out how to teach and now doesn't teach anymore is a cheap shot and not at all accurate. The self-reflection of people like John Burk, Frank Noschese and Dan Meyer is continuous and utterly professional. To suggest otherwise is to deny their hard work just because you don't like all of their conclusions. Hold them to the standard of evidence and scientific inquiry, yes, but, please, no cheap shots.