Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 10:54:15 -0700

Author: Karl Trappe

Subject: Re: Demo VS Lecture


Over the past 20 years, a larger percent of the faculty hired in
Universities has been theoretical. Partly this is due to university
economics. To hire an experimental researcher requires lab space and
equipment. While you can write up your prospectus to suggest that the
experimentalist "must be able to acquire research funding", you can't
get past the fact that building space is a premium at most
universities, and cannot be written into the grant. Additionally,
experimentalists are of greater value to industry, where the
opjective is to create a product, so they frequently go where the
dollars lead them (not to a university)

The side effect of a disproportionate hiring of theoreticians in
universities becomes evident in teaching styles. A theoretician is
happy with 40 pounds of chalk and no demonstrations. However, when
confronted with dismal performance of students (and their bad
attitude toward such a teaching style),this same individual will
resort to entertainment via demonstrations. Personally, I'd rather
see this inappropriate use of demonstrations than no use at all.

However, such inappropriate use of demonstrations will surely lead to
research results which *prove* that demonstration use is ineffective.
Just today, my office received a demonstration order from a generally
insuffarable instructor. He is covering another instructor's class
and wishes to do all of the demonstrations that have not yet been
done for this semester. How hard is it to predict what disasterous
instruction will follow? I should write up a paper titled: "Heavy
demonstration use destroys physics instruction". Karl

>Exactly! We have physicist here that wouldn't know the business end of a flat
>tip screw driver, but MAN can they calculate!!! I, on the other hand, need a
>calculator to add 3 numbers...but I can sure take things apart (and sometimes
>put things together).
>"Robert W. Harris" wrote:
>> When I was working on my MS, I was intrigued by the fact that you seemed to
>> be able to divide the physicists into two classes: theoretical and
>> experimental. They seemed to be quite different types of people to me at
>> the time. Later I read about learning styles and personality types, which
>> confirmed my observations.
>> When you consider the different learning styles of students, I believe that
>> the lectures may help some students more and demonstrations and labs will
>> help others more. They are complementary.
>> I agree with Machele.
>> Br. Robert W. Harris
>> Catholic Memorial High School
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Machele Bailey
>> To: Tap-L Tap-L
>> Date: Thursday, September 28, 2000 11:11 AM
>> Subject: Demo VS Lecture
>> >In my humble opinion, there are two significant ways scientific
>> >discovery is made: one by theoretical prediction and one by physical
>> >investigation. There are valid arguments for both ways. Many modern
>> >physics discoveries have been made due to predictions by theoreticians;
>> >particle physics and cosmology, in particular, come to mind. Still
>> >others have come from asking, "Now how/why did it do THAT?" when
>> >watching/playing with particular, the discovery of
>> >Velcro from observing and playing with organic "hitchhikers". To deny
>> >the students access to either of these methods or to promote that one is
>> >better than the other is to close the door on possible discovery. Both
>> >are vital to the development and learning processes of the mind.
>> >Research facilities that deny the development of a demo collection to
>> >funnel money into research are cutting off their own noses...I'd bet
>> >that 75% of those researchers are the "tinkering" do you
>> >teach students to "tinker" if you don't encourage it? I mean, we hardly
>> >ever hear of the reverse situation: A class where the lecture portion
>> >was dropped because the students could do their own demos/experiments or
> > >because paying a lecturer is a waste of money. That's ludicrus...and, I
>> >think, so is the opposite situation. Development of the student is vital
>> >for the health of future science; we should strive to develop them in
>> >all ways.
>> >
>> >My $.04 worth.
>> >
>> >--
>> >Machele Bailey-----Lab Manager-----Wake Forest University
>> >
>> >-----"Nothing shocks me. I'm a scientist." - Indiana Jones-----
>> >
>Machele Bailey-----Lab Manager-----Wake Forest University
>-----"Nothing shocks me. I'm a scientist." - Indiana Jones-----

Dr. Karl I. Trappe Desk (512) 471-4152
Lecture Demonstration Office Office (512) 471-5411
Physics Department, Mail Stop C-1600 Home (512) 264-1616
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas 78712-1081