Some subscribers to Math-Learn might be interested in an article "Bao et al.'s Comparison of Learning and Scientific Reasoning in Chinese & U.S. Schools: Alternate Conclusions and Recommendations" [Hake (2012)]. The abstract reads:
************************************************ ABSTRACT: The features, findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the valuable "Science" report "Learning and Scientific Reasoning: Comparisons of Chinese and U.S. students show that content knowledge and reasoning skills diverge" by Bao et al. (2009) are summarized.
The primary feature is that Chinese and U.S. students enrolled in introductory physics courses for science and engineering majors in medium-rated universities were tested near the start of classes with the "Force Concept Inventory" (FCI), the "Brief Electricity and Magnetism Assessment" (BEMA), and the "Lawson Classroom Test of Scientific Reasoning" (LCTSR).
The primary finding is that although Chinese students' averaged scores on the FCI and BEMA indicated *good conceptual understanding* of basic physics areas, and were, respectively, 1.9 and 2.9 standard deviations above those of U.S. students, their scores on the LCTSR were about the same as those of the U.S. students: at the low end of Lawson's hypothetical-deductive reasoning range.
Bao et al. draw the conclusion that "CURRENT EDUCATION AND ASSESSMENT IN THE STEM DISCIPLINES OFTEN EMPHASIZES FACTUAL RECALL OVER DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE REASONING" and recommend that researchers and educators (1) "invest more in the development of a balanced method of education, such as incorporating more *inquiry-based learning*," and (2) measure "not only content knowledge but also other factors so as to obtain a more holistic evaluation of students."
I criticize the Bao et al. report on two counts: (1) the conclusion doesn't follow from the findings; and (2) the recommendations are either ambiguous, problematic, or invalid.
A conclusion consistent with the findings is: AVERAGE SCORES BY BOTH CHINESE AND U.S. FRESHMEN ON FCI, BEMA, AND LCTSR INDICATE THAT K-12 STEM EDUCATION IN BOTH THOSE COUNTRIES EMPHASIZES FACTUAL RECALL OVER CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING AND SCIENTIFIC REASONING.
Recommendations that are, in my view, less ambiguous, less problematic, and more valid are: K-12 EDUCATORS SHOULD (1) utilize interactive engagement, inquiry, cognitive enhancement methods, and tests of reasoning; (2) emphasize a few fundamental concepts of STEM; and (3) develop age-appropriate assessments of concepts, epistemological beliefs, learning attitudes, and reasoning so as to *formatively* assess the effectiveness of their teaching methods. In addition, IN THE U.S. EFFORTS SHOULD BE MADE TO (4) reduce poverty, (5) upgrade the education, salary, and prestige of K-12 teachers, and (6) establish National Education Standards. ************************************************
"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." H. G. Wells (1920) in "The Outline of History"
REFERENCES [URL shortened by <http://bit.ly/> and accessed on 07 Feb 2012.] Bao, L., T. Cai, K. Koenig, K. Fang, J. Han, J. Wang, Q. Liu, L. Ding, L. Cui, Y. Luo, Y. Wang, L. Li, & N. Wu. 2009a. "Learning and Scientific Reasoning: Comparisons of Chinese and U.S. students show that content knowledge and reasoning skills diverge." Science 323(5914): 586 - 587, 30 January; online as a 184 kB pdf at <http://bit.ly/90sdAG>; supporting material is online as a 152 kB pdf at <http://bit.ly/aNmbVz>. See also the longer report "Learning of content knowledge and development of scientific reasoning ability: A cross culture comparison" [Bao et al. (2009b)].
Bao, L., K. Fang, T. Cai, J. Wang, L. Yang, L. Cui, J. Han, L. Ding, & Y. Luo. 2009b. "Learning of content knowledge and development of scientific reasoning ability: A cross culture comparison." Am. J. Phys. 77(12): 1118-1123; online to subscribers at <http://bit.ly/wV1wbe>.
Hake , R.R. 2012. "Bao et al.'s Comparison of Learning and Scientific Reasoning in Chinese & U.S. Schools: Alternate Conclusions and Recommendations," online as a 385 kB pdf at <http://bit.ly/zQfIdo>. The abstract and link to the complete article are being transmitted to various discussion lists and are also on my blog "Hake'sEdStuff" at <http://bit.ly/zM0Jqi> with a provision for comments.
Wells, H.G. 1920. "The Outline of History." For a Wikipedia entry which discusses the interesting history of this treatise see <http://bit.ly/yCkMjN>. For Amazon.com information on a two volume set published in 1949 by Garden City Books see <http://amzn.to/yvpDwU>.
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