Monday, December 5, 2011

Re: Research on the Extent of Active Learning

Some blog followers might be interested in a discussion list post “Re: Research on the Extent of Active Learning” [Hake (2011)]. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: POD’s Rae Jean Goodman, in her post “Research on extent of active learning,” evidently equating active learning with collaborative work, posed this question (paraphrasing): “It is common knowledge that more ‘collaborative work’ is being assigned and carried out by students, but can anyone recommend authoritative reports or articles that attest to changing learning/teaching modalities?”

In “The Impact of Concept Inventories On Physics Education and It’s Relevance For Engineering Education” [Hake (2011) (8.7 MB)] I discussed the implementation of non-traditional reform pedagogy in higher education - relevant to Goodman’s post because reform methods often involve collaborative work and/or active learning. Therein I:

(1) EMPHASIZED economist Bill Goeff’s complaint that psychologists Banta & Blaich (2011), evidently unaware of Physics Education Research, find few cases of improved learning after a teaching innovation despite the work of e.g., Hestenes et al. (1992), Hake (1998a), Crouch et al. (2007), and Deslauriers et al. (2011);

(2) POINTED OUT that:

(a) the glacial inertia of the educational system, though not well understood, appears to be typical of the slow Diffusion of Innovations [Rogers (2003)] in human society;

(b) there are at least “Eleven Barriers to Change in Higher Education”;

(c) even so, for physics education, Rogers’ early adopters of reform have now appeared at e.g., Harvard, North Carolina State University, MIT, the Univ. of Colorado, California Polytechnic at San Luis Obispo, and the Univ. of British Columbia, possibly presaging a Rogers take off for physics education reform, about two decades after the first use of Concept Inventories ; and

(3) CONCLUDED that:

(a) Concept Inventories can stimulate reform, but judging from the results in physics it may take about two decades before even early adopters become evident;

(b) there are at least seven reasons why the rate of adoption of reforms may be greater in engineering education than in physics education.

To access the complete 27 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:

“Physics educators have led the way in developing and using objective tests to compare student learning gains in different types of courses, and chemists, biologists, and others are now developing similar instruments. These tests provide convincing evidence that students assimilate new knowledge more effectively in courses including active, inquiry-based, and collaborative learning, assisted by information technology, than in traditional courses.”
Wood & Gentile (2003)

REFERENCES [All URL's shortened by and accessed on 5 Dec 2011.]
Hake, R.R. 2011. “Re: Research on the Extent of Active Learning,” online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at Post of 4 Dec 2011 19:01:51 -0800 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to several discussion lists.

Wood, W.B., & J.M. Gentile. 2003. “Teaching in a research context,” Science 302: 1510; 28 November; online as a 209 kB pdf at

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