If Carl Wieman and Katherine Perkins want to “change science education to make it effective and relevant for a much larger fraction of the student population,” they will have to acknowledge—which like many physics education researchers they fail to do—that not all unhappy or unsuccessful physics students are alike. My analysis They’re Not Dumb, They’re Different: Stalking the Second Tier (Research Corp, 1990), derived from a decade of inquiry involving highly successful nonscience university faculty and graduate students, reveals a range of learning styles, interests, and anxieties about learning physics that are independent of intelligence and capacity for hard work. Some physics avoiders will no doubt respond to the authors’ computer simulations. But some may not. Some underperformers will like discussion in groups; others may find it off-putting to have to talk about what one is not really sure of. So long as the physics-education community continues to seek a one-size-fits-all pedagogical solution to America’s lagging production of physics majors, talent that is differently packaged from the norm will still be overlooked.
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Sheila Tobias; Meeting challenges and facing the music in physics education. Physics Today 1 August 2006; 59 (8): 10. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4797409
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