Excellent Approximations and Lying to Children

In which I talk about the common complaint that we teach students physics that “isn’t true,” and the limits on that statement. ———— Frequent commenter Ron sent me an email pointing to this post by David Reed on “What we “know” that t’aint so…. and insist on teaching to kids!”: he science we teach is […]

What Does It Take to Evaluate Teaching?

In which we compare a couple of different systems for evaluating teachers, looking at what’s involved in doing a fair assessment of a teacher’s performance. ——– Another casualty of the great blog upgrade, in the sense of a post that was delayed until the inspiration for it has been forgotten by most of the people […]

The Physics of a Sad Balloon

My birthday was two months ago, and SteelyKid’s was the weekend before last, so we’ve had balloons running around the house for a good while now. Meaning that when I came into the library yesterday, I saw the sad little image on the right: a half-deflated Mylar balloon floating at about chest height. Now, the […]

Economic Astronomy: Gender Gaps in Lifetime Earnings

There are two recent studies of gender disparities in science and technology (referred to by the faintly awful acronym “STEM”) getting a lot of play over the last few days. As is often the case with social-science results, the data they have aren’t quite the data you would really like to have, and I think […]

The Test(ing) of Time 2: Freezing Time

A month and a half ago, I reported on a simple experiment to measure the performance of a timer from the teaching labs. I started the timer running at a particualr time, and over the next couple of weeks checked in regularly with the Official US Time display at the NIST website, recording the delay […]

Active Engagement Works: “Improved Learning in a Large-Enrollment Physics Class”

Physics is a notoriously difficult and unpopular subject, which is probably why there is a large and active Physics Education Research community within physics departments in the US. This normally generates a lot of material in the Physical Review Special Topics journal, but last week, a PER paper appeared in Science, which is unusual enough […]

Problematic Tigers

SteelyKid is, as I have noted previously, half Korean, a quarter Polish, and an eighth each Irish and German. Her parents are irreligious, the extended family is Catholic (more so on my side than Kate’s), and she goes to day care at the Jewish Community Center. In other words, a thoroughly American sort of upbringing. […]

Survey-Related Inadequacies

I recently participated in a survey of higher education professionals about various aspects of the job. It was very clearly designed by and aimed at scholars in the humanities and social sciences, to the point where answering questions honestly made me feel like a Bad Person. For example, there were numerous questions about teaching methods […]

Education Reform Is Slow

Kevin Drum notes a growing backlash against education reform, citing Diane Ravitch, Emily Yoffe and this Newsweek (which is really this private foundation report in disguise) as examples. The last of these, about the failed attempts of several billionaires to improve education through foundation grants, is really kind of maddening. It makes the billionaires in […]

Scientific Thinking, Stereotypes, and Attitudes

A few more comments on the scientific thinking thing, because it’s generated a bunch of comments. As usual, some of them are good points, and some of them have completely misunderstood what I was trying to say. so let’s take another crack at it. While the post was worded somewhat strongly, I’m not really trying […]