The Science Learnification Weekly (Feb 27, 2011)

This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the past week or so.


This idea was the brainchild of Frank Noschese (Action-Reaction Pseudoteaching page) and John Burk (Quantum Progress Pseudoteaching FAQ) and was inspired by Dan Meyer’s pseudocontext posts. Early in the week a whole bunch of posts dropped at the same time discussing the idea of pseudoteaching:

Pseudoteaching is something you realize you’re doing after you’ve attempted a lesson which from the outset looks like it should result in student learning, but upon further reflection, you realize that the very lesson itself was flawed and involved minimal learning.

For me pseudoteaching (#pseudoed on Twitter) seems to show up most often when an activity, demo, derivation or mini-lesson goes down and afterward I realize that there’s no way that the students gained any insight into the topic at hand from what just went down in class. I think a lot of typical physics demos (I can’t really comment on other disciplines) fall in this category, with the monkey and the hunter demo being an example of something I have tried to show a few times and afterward am always left wondering what on Earth I was expecting them to learn from that demo. Pretty much any “conceptual” question I have ever seen related to the concept behind that demo ends up being a recall question pure and simple that in no way tests their understanding of the independence of horizontal and vertical motions. I ramble a bit more about this in the form of comments here.

What can scientists learn from science journalism (and vice-versa)

This was two different pieces of internet consumables brought to my attention on twitter.

“Never Say Diagonal of the Covariance Matrix: 6 Things Scientists Can Learn From Science Journalists” is a one-hour thirty-five minute talk given by Maggie Koerth-Baker (science editor for Boing Boing). I’m about half-way through the talk and it is great so far. Since it is an hour long, I don’t expect that everybody will fit watching it into their schedule so I will post a summary based on the notes that I’m taking. I posted my notes as a summary of the talk. The #scichat daily linked to this post discussing the talk, and which lists the six main points.

“The scientist-journalist divide: what can we learn from each other?” is a post by Anne Jefferson which contrasts the first lines of features discussing climate change as written by a scientist and by a journalist. Some good food for thought on writing better science blog posts in here.

Flipped/Inverted classrooms in higher ed

I stumbled across a few inverted classroom implementations (ranging from barely inverted to very inverted) this past week. I’m in the middle of writing my own blog post about how I use pre-lecture reading assignments in my introductory Physics courses and how I’ve managed to get to a point where a decent fraction of the students complete these reading assignments. To the links…

“Flipped SBG with voice so far”: Andy Rundquist talks about his experience as a first-time Standards-Based Grading implementer. More to the theme of this little section, he talks about how he uses screencasting to put mini-lectures online for the students to consume before coming to class. He has multiple posts on how he uses screencasting this way.

“How the inverted classroom saves students time”: Robert Talbert’s post title is self-explanatory.

“Learn before Lecture: A Strategy That Improves Learning Outcomes in a Large Introductory Biology Class,” M. Moravec et al., CBE Life Sci Educ 9(4): 473-481 2010. This journal article was brought to my attention by my old reading group (and seems to be available for free). I will probably write a short post on this paper, but I will sum it up here. They off-loaded four to five slides worth of content from three separate lectures over the term to the students to consume before coming to class. This gave them a bit more time in class to get students to grapple with higher-level concepts related to this material, which resulted in an average improvement of 21% on six exam questions compared to six similar questions covering the same material on previous years’ exams. They were already using active-learning exercises, such as clicker questions, small group problem solving and interactive demos, in all their lectures so as far as I can tell the only real change here is that they got the students to spend more time on task by getting them to work through the low-level stuff before coming to class. This additional time on task makes it not at all surprising that they saw improved learning outcomes in those topics. In the end I feel like I am missing the take-home message from this paper.

Video abstracts being published by the Institute of Physics

John Burk starts a conversation about how video abstracts for IOP-published papers could be used in the classroom.