“Just So Science” – How Physics learnt to Teach

By Elf Eldridge 13/05/2011 3

In response to an article published in Science[1] on improving learning in a physics course. They pretty clearly demonstrate that when comparing two streams of a physics course, that an interactive experimental approach is better than being taught even by the best lecturer. Hmm, I’d just like to say I’m gobsmacked.

Let’s get something out of the way – it’s fantastic that this is being publicised and acknowledged but……SERIOUSLY?! This is published in SCIENCE and any secondary school teacher could tell you this – and the best ways to implement it.

I mean it’s 2011 – we have trains that float, invisibility cloaks, a (broken) probe on one of the moons of Saturn. We have put several men on the moon and are able to emulate the conditions billionths of a second after the big bang. Yet this is still published in Science.

Is teaching humans really that complicated? In the same issue that talks about the structure of the polar ice caps of mars?


1) Louis Deslauries, et al. “Improved Learning in a Large-Enrollment Physics Class” Science 332, 862(2011) DOI:10.1126/science.1201783

3 Responses to ““Just So Science” – How Physics learnt to Teach”

  • I hate to say this, but it is probably news to many in the university sector. That’s why Carl Wieman (? – Nobel laureate physicist) made such a splash when he started publishing & publicising similar stuff. There’s a lot been written on this already – this latest paper isn’t breaking new ground & in some ways I’m surprised that it’s got such a big splash in Science. But on the other hand, the very fact that Science has run with it, means that the message might get out there where it’s needed.

  • I hasten to add that Marcus (hi, Marcus!) is someone to whom this is definitely not news – he incorporates a lot of these principles into his own physics teaching (& won a Faculty teaching excellence award last year as a result).

  • Good to hear – keep up the excellent work Marcus! Certainly we are taught (even just when doing outreach) of the importance of this down in the Physics department at Vic. Though the principles could definitely be taken on board more my other staff members and courses. I guess, like everything, it all comes down to money in the end. It’s just cheaper to ‘educate’ students though lectures – actually I’m under the impression that the lecture style of teaching was initially introduced as a cost cutting measure – one that just never disappeared….