Seven Day. And foretold by the weather beavers to be the day we leave dihydrogen oxide phase changes behind for a while. And may thus cease to stress out over damages to our household plumbing. Houses in Alibam are not built for colding weather. Or ice.
Another thing that needs to change in response to Climate Change. Which is unlikely given the preponderance of Repulsian denial-ism in the Old Confederacy.
On an equally dismal – and comparable – azimuth, I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Research reveals ‘shocking’ weakness of lab courses.” This comes from Cornell U – once host to Feynman – about how their introductory physics labs don’t teach physics.
What is shocking to me is how this nonsense is getting dredged up once again.
I started doing learning physics labs back in high schule. That was in the sixties (of the last century) when science was a big deal, even approved by Repulsians and Democruds, because we needed to keep the Red Hordes at bay. In many ways, Containment was a vastly superior life style than today even with hiding under one’s schule desk exercises. And fear of nuclear destruction.
Anyway, high schule physics lab was largely a joke, mostly because of the turn over of faculty and the meagreness of equipment. But those lessons stood well with time. Two of the problems with physics learning labs are the equipment: highly specialized; hideously expensive; and not very instructive; and faculty interest. No one gets tenure for dedicating one’s career to introductory physics labs. It’s a ticket punch, not a career definer.
When I went to college I found more and better equipment, almost all of it older by I by decades, and lab teaching assistants who were more concerned with students not killing themselves than meaningful learning.
Supposedly the purpose of introductory physics lab is supplementing what is taught in the course. That fails. First of all, the only people who may benefit from the lab – long term – are science majors, physics majors in particular. And they are the minority. Because if you try to teach an introductory physics class for physics majors the legume enumerators hang you out to dry. So you have to have a course that services (the academic variety) engineers and other science discipline majors as well as provides a blast off for physics majors.
So the majority know they aren’t going to benefit from the labs and that their task is to endure the labs to pass the course and move on. And the physics faculty have to accommodate this to survive.
Let me also interject that introductory physics lab is unique, or, at least, was in my day. Yes, it was paced to the lectures, but the stuff taught in introductory physics is the same as taught in high schule physics just more so. So what the labs will show is already well known, so little learning opportunity and little learning. Just more endurance.
The next learning lab course – “modern” physics – is better in having stuff to actually learn but, at least in my day, wasn’t tracked to the lectures. Why? Because there was only enough equipment for one set per experiment. So the lab schedule was a staggered progression. One team got to do the experiments in sync with the lectures but everyone else was out of sync.
The team thing is another contributor. It’s a Taylor thing. Teams are good for getting work done but they’re lousy for learning or doing really original stuff. Why, because the EXTROs want to get things done and they run the teams. In fact, even in a team of two, learning doesn’t happen. Learning is an individual activity to varying degree and physics tends to be overpopulated with INTRO Nerds.
When I was in Grad Schule, study groups were a big deal at the Campus of the Boneyard. I tried a couple. Didn’t work. Because of the EXTROs. Turned out the study groups were encouraged because of the flunk out rate of EXTROs and how emotionally engaging they were with the administration.
The last coffin nail is time. Labs have to be scheduled. College teaching is all about floor space. And not everyone learns at the same “speed”.
So why do we expect learning labs to work? Because of the administration? Because the faculty did it? Because they didn’t learn either but think they should have?
If we’re realistic, we shouldn’t expect anything more out of introductory physics labs than that it will “wet the feet” of students who will get introduced to real research labs in a few years. And won’t be total klutzes about it.
Physics is about reality. Apply that reality recognition to learning labs and quite rehashing their ineffectiveness every ten years or so. So I can quite having to read the same tripe every decade. Figure out it’s a socialization process like lectures and homework problems. And take Latency into account.