FEd April 1995 Newsletter - Editorial

April 1995



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Teach the Ones You're With

Often when talking with faculty in my own and other science departments, I hear the lament that students aren't as prepared as they used to be (or sometimes: they don't work as hard as they used to). I don't know whether this is actually the case, but my main concern is with that subset of faculty who go on to reveal that they don't consider it their problem. That is, they have not changed their teaching methods accordingly. I'll be harder on them: there are some faculty who haven't changed in response to anything, including evidence that traditional styles don't work well with most students. I have written an eloquent and lengthy editorial on this topic, but you won't see it. I realized in assembling this newsletter that most of my points are made by the authors of the various contributions to this issue. So instead I will guide you to them.

One response to under-prepared students is to go to the elementary and high schools and offer assistance. The first several articles in this issue focus on outreach activities by scientists. Indeed, this is the thrust of this particular newsletter: scientists in the classroom. We have much to offer, and some ideas are presented nicely in the articles that follow.

A third approach would be to investigate the learning process itself and try to develop more effective teaching practices. One interesting experiment was tried at the Illinois School for Math and Science (IMSA). The first results of that study are presented here.

Physics Education Research (PER) is becoming a substantial research field in its own right. Arons' work is built on this research. An extensive bibliography has been put together by Joe Redish at the University of Maryland to guide interested readers to this research. The bibliography is accessible on the World Wide Web through the University. of Maryland home page: There are lots more goodies in the PER section of Maryland's home page. I encourage you to look for them.

There is a lot of concern that students don't want to learn science, and that the general public doesn't support or understand science. Perhaps we're not teaching it very well. To anyone. It is a question worth exploring, and there are real benefits for us as well as for society if we can improve the delivery of physics education. Our obligation is to teach our students, not the ones we wish we had. Learning is a personal thing, with each student building on what he or she already knows. Teaching as if all students had the perfect preparation is thus not only wrong-headed but also an enormous waste of both their time and ours.

So.....if you can't be with the students you'd love, teach the ones you're with.
Stan Jones