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Topic: [math-learn] Can Physics Education Research Learn a Lot From Operant

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Richard Hake

Posts: 1,251
From: Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Registered: 12/4/04
[math-learn] Can Physics Education Research Learn a Lot From Operant

Posted: Mar 10, 2012 2:36 PM
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Some subscribers to Math-Learn might be interested in a recent post
"Can Physics Education Research Learn a Lot From Operant
Conditioning?" [Hake (2012)]. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: PhysLrnR's Diana Kornbrot wrote that "Behaviourism, a la
Skinner, questions the usefulness of inferred mental states as an
explanatory concept - this has proved a dead-end."

To which Bud Nye responded [slightly edited; my CAPS; my inserts at
". . . .[[insert]]. . . ]: "But, behavioral treatments have a strong,
extremely well documented history of effectiveness in psychotherapy
and learning. The applied behavior analysis research support of
behavioral methods is massive, of extremely high quality, and
compelling. . . . . . Skinner. . . .
.[[<>]]. . . made many
contributions and his work on operant conditioning is invaluable and
makes a strong contributions to this day. Cognitive Behavioral
Therapy . . . .
.[[<>]]. . .
.. is one of those strong contributions . . . Indeed Physics
since rote learning also has a part to play in learning complex
ideas. But the 'responses' that are being reinforced are not merely
physical. They may well be verbal responses about the client's mental

I quote (with permission) comments I received from Julie Vargas,
daughter of B.F. Skinner, in response to my posts "Could 'Precision
Teaching' and the Wider Education Communities Learn Something From
One Another?" at <> and <>.
Vargas's comments appear to be consistent with the above opinion of
Nye. Julie Vargas wrote [my inserts at ". . . .[[insert]]. . . .";
my CAPS]: "In 'Behavior Analysis for Effective Teaching' (Vargas,
2009) I quote [Eric Mazur]. What I didn't know was that his work was
being touted as 'constructivist-oriented' 'Interactive Engagement.'
I don't see . . . . [[Mazur's method, see e.g., his YouTube talk at
<>]]. . . . as like Direct Instruction. . . . . .
There is no choral responding. . . . . . I'm not sure [Mazur's
method] is like Precision Teaching either. . . . . . . .
.[[<>]]. . . . . I
didn't see any fluency exercises, nor student graphing. But [MAZUR'S
METHOD] IS DEFINITELY BEHAVIORAL in asking for student responding,
adjusting according to how they do answer, and in the objectives
being stated in clear terms that require 'applying' the principles to
every day life in addition to just memorizing them."

To access the complete 10 kB post please click on <>.

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands
President, PEdants for Definitive Academic References
which Recognize the Invention of the Internet (PEDARRII)
Links to Articles: <>
Links to SDI Labs: <>
Blog: <>
Academia: <>
Twitter <!/rrhake>

"People have nowadays . . . got a strange opinion that everything
should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do
so much good as reading the books from which the lectures are taken.
Lectures were once useful; but now, when we can all read, and books
are so numerous, lectures are unnecessary. "
Samuel Johnson according to James Boswell (1791)

REFERENCES [URL's shortened by <> and accessed on 06 March 2012.]
Boswell, J. 1791. "Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.", online at

Hake, R.R. 2012. ""Can Physics Education Research Learn a Lot From
Operant Conditioning?" on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at
<>. Post of 10 Mar 2012 09:43:20 -0800AERA-L and
Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being
transmitted to several discussion lists and are also on my blog
"Hake'sEdStuff" at <> with a provision for

Vargas, J. 2009. "Behavior Analysis for Effective Teaching."
Routledge, publisher's information at <>. information at <>, note the
searchable "Look Inside" feature- some might be interested in the
results of a search for "Mazur."

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