Posts Tagged ‘Science Education’

Binomial distributions and multiple choice tests

October 24, 2012

Readers of my blog know that I generally regard multiple choice tests (MCTs) as an adequate tool to assess student knowledge of, and proficiency with, a given set of topics. I have written about this subject here and here.


On confirmation bias

August 12, 2012

Doug Natelson has done an outstanding job at debunking a ridiculous charge of confirmation bias allegedly affecting a recent study of climate change. Such a charge is put forth in an article published in the popular press (on a very prominent venue). While ostensibly aimed at educating the general public about some aspects of how science works, the article sneakily rehashes one of the most common and dangerous misconceptions that exist out there about science, namely that in the end it is not as “objective” as its practitioners claim.


Online notes

August 5, 2012

Why do students who take courses with me (but colleagues tell me of similar experiences) routinely insist that I scan and post online my very own notes, the hard-to-read, disorganized and sketchy gibberish that I use for lecturing, whereas if I post a neatly put together summary of the basic concepts and formulae — typically after painstakingly making slides, drawings and animations — I am invariably told that “that stuff is useless” ?


Instructional technology and college education

June 30, 2012

In this op-ed on the New York Times, Jeff Solingo, editorial director of the Chronicle of Higher Education points to a few concrete, urgent actions that universities and colleges across North America should take, in order to weather the financial crisis affecting institutions of higher education.


The mystery of quantization

March 5, 2012

Quantum mechanics owes its name from the hypothesis that originated it, initially proposed by Max Planck, and successively extended by Niels Bohr and others.
The hypothesis of quantization can be formally expressed through Bohr-Sommerfeld conditions, which constitute the core of what is presently called the Old Quantum Theory. Their most immediate consequence is that the energy of an individual particle is in some cases quantized, i.e., only allowed to take on specific, well-defined values, arranged into a regular pattern, describable mathematically by simple formulae.
In these cases, an experimental measurement of the energy yields no other outcome than one of these “allowed” values — nothing in-between is ever observed. This is what is meant by “quantization”.


Graduate application fees

February 24, 2011

I routinely receive inquiries from potential graduate students, who send me their Curriculum Vitae, asking me whether I am planning to take new graduate students under my supervision. They state to me their interest for the research that I conduct, and inquire as to whether I would consider them as members of my research group. My response to them, in these cases, is usually “boiler plate”, almost.


How important are interviews ?

February 16, 2011

Interview season is about to start for academic job seekers, chiefly at the tenure-track faculty level. Blogosphere abounds with pointed advice on how to conduct oneself during an on-campus interview — “Dos and donts” of a faculty candidate include, and are not limited to: be confident, not cocky; respectful, not obsequious; funny, not tasteless; enthusiastic, not eager; competent, not haughty; and so on.


Gimme this, gimme that…

January 6, 2011

The following fictitious dialogue summarizes some actual conversations that I have recently had with senior undergraduate physics students, who sought advice from me regarding their choice of a suitable graduate program.


On multiple choice tests (part II)

August 23, 2010

Having described in my previous post the most important deficiencies of problem-based tests (as I see them), I am now going to list what I perceive as the most important merits of Multiple Choice Tests (MCTs), and illustrate why I regard them as a better choice, especially for introductory, foundation type courses. Here too, in order to keep the discussion concrete I shall focus on physics tests.


On multiple choice tests (part I)

August 18, 2010

When I started teaching, in 1996, I never imagined that I would some day make use of multiple choice tests (MCT). To me, multiple choice would be a tool to conduct surveys, possibly suitable to test one’s proficiency with road signs and traffic rules, or other subjects requiring simple memorization — surely not a person’s mastery of a subject like physics.