Sunday, July 31, 2011

Physics Demonstrations: Both Education and Entertainment

Some blog followers might be interested in a discussion-list post “Physics Demonstrations: Both Education and Entertainment” [Hake (2011)].

The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: PhysLrnR’s Noah Podolefsky (2011) wrote (paraphrasing): “Perhaps the reason we don't have evidence that demos promote interest is that nobody has bothered to look for it because the research agenda has been mostly focused on quantifiable measures of content learning.”

But Coleman, Holcomb, & Rigden (1998) did look for it and reported that a survey at Virginia Tech confirmed students’ approval of demonstrations “clearly and unambiguously,” and that many “students commented in detail on the educational value of the demonstrations.”

What seems to have eluded the physics education community is that both students’ enjoyment and learning can be drastically increased by transforming lecture demonstrations into “Socratic Dialogue Inducing (SDI) Labs” in which the students themselves do the demos and discuss the physics behind the demos among themselves, with Socratic guidance as needed.

To access the complete 22 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)

“I am deeply convinced that a statistically significant improvement would occur if more of us learned to listen to our students . . . By listening to what they say in answer to carefully phrased, leading questions, we can begin to understand what does and does not happen in their minds, anticipate the hurdles they encounter, and provide the kind of help needed to master a concept or line of reasoning without simply ‘telling them the answer’.. . . .Nothing is more ineffectually arrogant than the widely found teacher attitude that ‘all you have to do is say it my way, and no one within hearing can fail to understand it.’. . . . Were more of us willing to relearn our physics by the dialogue and listening process I have described, we would see a discontinuous upward shift in the quality of physics teaching. I am satisfied that this is fully within the competence of our colleagues; the question is one of humility and desire.”
- Arnold Arons (1974)

REFERENCES [URL’s shortened by and accessed on 28 July 2011.]
Arons, A.B. 1974. “Toward wider public understanding of science: Addendum,” Am. J. Phys. 42(2): 157-158; online to subscribers at .

Hake, R.R. 2011. “Physics Demonstrations: Both Education and Entertainment,” online on the OPEN AERA-L archives at . Post of 31 Jul 2011 14:16:04-0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post were transmitted to various discussion lists.

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