Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Physics Education Research - Not Widely Known in Higher Education

Some blog followers might be interested in discussion-list post “Physics Education Research - Not Widely Known in Higher Education” [Hake (2011)].

The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: Economist Bill Goffe in his PhysLrnR post “Re: Business agenda for K-12 STEM education: not research-informed” wrote (paraphrasing):

“. . . it appears that Physics Education Research isn't widely known even in higher ed. For example Trudy Banta and Charles Blaich in a
Change Magazine article “Closing the Assessment Loop” bemoan the fact that they can find very few instances of improved learning after a teaching innovation. The extensive physics education research that so convincingly demonstrates such a connection is not even mentioned.”

That Trudy Banta and Charles Blaich are evidently either unaware or dismissive of physics education research is typical of the near total disconnect between (a) Psychologists, Education specialists, and Psychometricians (PEP’s), and (b) education researchers in STEM disciplines - see e.g., “Evidence on Promising Practices in Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education”, and “Possible Palliatives for the Paralyzing Pre/Post Paranoia that Plagues Some PEP's? [Hake (2006)].

To access the complete 15 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)

“There is substantial evidence that scientific teaching in the sciences, i.e., teaching that employs instructional strategies that encourage undergraduates to become actively engaged in their own learning, can produce levels of understanding, retention and transfer of knowledge that are greater than those resulting from traditional lecture/lab classes. But widespread acceptance by university faculty of new pedagogies and curricular materials still lies in the future. . . . . We conclude that widespread promotion and adoption of the elements of scientific teaching by university science departments could have profound effects in promoting a scientifically literate society and a reinvigorated research enterprise.”
Robert DeHaan (2005)

“One of the most striking findings [came from comparison of the learning outcomes (as measured by the FCI and a related inventory on mechanics) from 14 traditional courses (2,084 students) and 48 courses using "interactive-engagement" (active learning) techniques (4,458 students). . . . .[[Hake (1998a,b)]]. . . . . The results on the FCI assessment showed that students in the interactive engagement courses outperformed students in the traditional courses by 2 SDs. Similarly, students in the interactive-engagement courses outperformed students in the traditional courses on the Mechanics Baseline Test, a measure of problem-solving ability. This certainly looks like evidence that active learning works! Research in physics education is having a profound effect on the development of instructional materials.”
Joel Michael (2006)

REFERENCES [All URL's shortened by and accessed on 27 April 2011.]

DeHaan, R.L. 2005. “The Impending Revolution in Undergraduate Science Education,” Journal of Science Education and Technology 14(2): 253-269; the abstract and first page are online at

Hake, R.R. 2011. “Physics Education Research - Not Widely Known in Higher Education” online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at Post of 27 Apr 2011 17:07:07-0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to various discussion lists.

Michael, J. 2006. “Where's the evidence that active learning works?” Advances in Physiology Education 30: 159-167, online at .


Richard Hake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Hake said...

I thank Professor Beverley A.P. Taylor of Miami University for reminding me that Peggy Maki is one of the few higher-education-assessment gurus who is aware of PER.

I recommend her book “Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment Across the Institution” [Maki (2011)], as one of the very best books written on assessment in higher education.

My search for “Physics” at Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature for the earlier 2004 edition of her book turned up 8 hits - two to the FCI on pages 115 and 160, and even one to my homepage on page 102!

Peggy Maki wrote to me on 28 April 2011: “I love to use physics as one of my assessment examples. In fact, the 2011 2nd ed. of ‘Assessing for Learning’ includes in Chapter 4 a case study from physics that Carl Wieman actually wrote for the chapter - a case that is built on the fact that the use of concept inventories demonstrates the kinds of conceptual misunderstandings that first year physics students carry with them that, if not addressed, make it difficult for them to learn as they move into higher level courses.”

BTW – I’m an HTML dummy so you will have to copy and past the URL’s into your web browser.

Richard Hake

“Assessing for learning is a systematic and systemic process of inquiry into what and how well students learn over the progression of their studies and is driven by intellectual curiosity about the efficacy of collective educational practices.”
Peggy Maki (2011, preface)

Maki, P.L. 2011. “Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment Across the Institution.” Stylus, 2nd edition, publisher's information at . information at Note the searchable "Look Inside" feature. Unfortunately, as of 28 April 2011, the Amazon search was for the earlier 2004 edition.