It was really, really hard to read this article. Not because it’s bad, or because it challenged my sense of self, but because it says something very important and true in such an uninformed way that my nit-picking brain just wants to tear into it.
The reason I’m not going to launch into attacking the many details that are off in this article is that the core of it – the idea that there is actually hard evidence that can be found for and against various educational techniques – is completely correct. Ms. Kolata is completely right that most people still don’t know that hard evidence can be found, or even believe that it could be, or even care when it’s shown right to their face. More people should.
The article points towards the What Works Clearinghouse, which I knew about at some point but had forgotten in the intervening years. It’s worth a look. It’s missing vast swaths of physics education research, and it’s pretty narrowly focused without being specific enough about what it means, but at least it’s a start, goddammit.
Folks in physics or related fields might also check out ComPADRE and the PER User’s Guide for greater, broader, and better-defined interventions specific to physics/chem/math.
I’ve been saying for a few years now that our main issue in physics education research is not that we don’t know how to teach better – we absolutely do. We’ve known with hard evidence for over 25 years. Our issue is one of adoption. Most courses are still taught in an inherently less effective manner. If this Times article helps change that, I’m 100% behind it.