Date: Mon, 29 Jun 2009 17:02:10 -0700
From: Richard Hake <[hidden email]>
Reply-To: [hidden email]
To: [hidden email]
Cc: [hidden email], [hidden email]
Subject: [Net-Gold] Re: Arnold Arons' Role in the History of Physics Education
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ABSTRACT: Dewey Dykstra, in a PhysLrnR post "early history of PER"
quoted PER pioneer Bob Fuller's account of that subject. Fuller's
assessment of the role of Arons and Karplus in the history of PER is:
(a) consistent with my own that "Arnold Arons, along with Robert
Karplus, can fairly be called one of the founding fathers of U.S.
Physics Education Research. . . ." and (b) inconsistent with (1)
Beichner's view that Arons' only contribution to PER was his role in
the formation of McDermott's PER group, and (2) the opinion of a
reviewer of my AJP-rejected "The Arons Advocated Method" that Arons'
"activities did not constitute systematic investigations. . .
.Therefore this claim. . . [that he's one of the a founding fathers
of PER]. . . . should be removed." I suggest that Fuller consider
editing a future volume of "Reviews in Physics Education Research" so
as to set the historical record straight.
Dewey Dykstra (2009a) in his PhysLrnR post titled "early history of
PER" quoted Bob Fuller as follows [bracketed by lines "FFFFF. . . .
"; slightly edited to insert academic references; my insert at . . .
. .[insert]. . . . ."]:
How many PER people have actually read the Arons (1959) paper? or the
McKinnon and Renner (1971) paper? Arnold Arons' (1998) at the PERC
conference, published in print in the Proceedings. . . .
[<http://physics.unl.edu/~rpeg/perc98/index.html>]. . . . . and
available as full text download, needs to be read by the people in
PER. Appendix A of those Proceedings is a brief history of PER and
the list of the earliest PER theses is also included in those
Proceedings. The earliest ones were SESAME PhDs at Berkeley in 1972.]
IF ONE CONSIDERS THE TRANSITION FROM BEING A CONTENT AUTOCRAT TO
STARTING TO CARE ABOUT STUDENT MENTAL PROCESSES, THEN ARONS (1959)
PAPER IN AJP IS PROBABLY THE FIRST PER PAPER TO APPEAR IN PRINT.
I date the beginning of PER with the publication of the McKinnon and
Renner (1971) paper in AJP. Then there were a series of papers by
Renner and Lawson (1973a,b) in TPT, the Karplus Workshop (1975) on
Physics Teaching and the Development of Reasoning from January, 1975,
then the Arons and Karplus (1976) letter to physics departments in
AJP. The movement went public with the reasoning paper published in
Physics Today in 1977 by Fuller, Karplus, & Lawson (1977). I was
senior author only by the grace of Robert Karplus. He had a standing
invitation from Physics Today to write such a paper. I was a
visiting professor at UCB that year and he let me write the first
THE TRANSFORMATION IN THINKING THAT IS REQUIRED TO ESTABLISH A PER
PROGRAM, WHICH I THINK FOCUSES MORE ON STUDENT LEARNING THAN ON
PHYSICS TEACHING, WAS PIONEERED BY ARONS AND KARPLUS. If you need
proof of that look at the early evaluation papers on PSSC, or the
very first paper ever published in AJP by Richtmyer (1933). Those
papers, I think, completely neglected student mental processes and
focused on physics content. That was the way physicists thought and
ARONS (1959) PAPER WAS THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA IN PHYSICS
EDUCATION. Although I think he thought that no one paid any attention
to him, or to the letter to departments that he wrote with Karplus in
1976 [Arons & Karplus (1976). That is detailed with Arnold's typical
sense of humor in his 1998 PERC paper [Arons 1998)].
Fuller's assessments in the CAPS above are:
a. consistent with the statement in my article "The Arons Advocated
Method" [Hake (2004)] that: "Arnold Arons, along with Robert Karplus,
can fairly be called one of the founding fathers of U.S. Physics
Education Research, a field that has emerged as a viable
sub-discipline of physics in the last two decades."
b. inconsistent with:
(1) Beichner's claim that "The physics education group at the
University of Washington essentially started the PER field when
McDermott, initially hired by Arnold Arons as an instructor in
courses for teacher education, branched out into studies of student
difficulties with many of the central concepts in physics. . . . .
These and other groups - along with many individuals - are exploring
a wide range of subjects, but all PER specialists are basically
continuing the legacy started by McDermott."
(2) The AJP reviewer of Hake (2004) who stated: "The claim made in
the abstract that Arons 'can fairly be called one of the founding
fathers of U.S. physics education research' misrepresents his role in
the development of this field. This is not to try to downplay his
contributions. Arons has certainly influenced the thinking of many
members of the PER community, and his early support for Lillian
McDermott was (as she attests) important in her establishment of a
research group in the Physics Department at the University of
Washington. However, his activities did not constitute systematic
investigations, nor did he claim that they were. Therefore this
claim should be removed."
The referee's implication [and Dewey Dykstra's (2009b) assertion]
that Arons did not do physics education research was countered in an
earlier post of 23 June 2009 [Hake (2009)] on this thread.
I suggest that Bob Fuller consider editing a future volume of
"Reviews in Physics Education Research"
so as to set the historical record straight.
Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
24245 Hatteras Street, Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands.
"He who knows only his own generation
Remains always a child."
Cicero (in "Orator")
REFERENCES [Tiny URL's courtesy <http://tinyurl.com/create.php>.]
Arons, A.B. 1959. "Structure, methods, and objectives of the required
freshman calculus-physics course at Amherst College. Am. J. Phys.
27(9): 658-666; online to subscribers at
Arons wrote, with typical incisiveness: "After six years at Stevens I
moved to Amherst College, where in those days they had a tightly
organized core curriculum, one component of which was a freshman
calculus physics course required of all students. . . . I had to
direct that course and I was fortunate in having a superlative set of
colleagues who followed along with the idea of not doing too much too
fast, leading the students to define, talk, verbalize, interpret,
connect with every day experiences. This was in the fifties and at
some point I decided that maybe I ought to write a paper for the
American Journal of Physics (AJP). . . . since there was a lot of
curiosity about this required course. I thought I'd take the
opportunity to describe it and to inject the idea of leading, of
engaging the student mind through talking and reasoning about the
concepts and ideas being developed. I submitted [the paper] to AJP
somewhere in the mid-fifties. The editor . . .Tom Osgood . . .
QUICKLY REJECTED [IT] ON THE GROUNDS THAT IT WAS OF MARGINAL INTEREST
TO THE READERS OF AJP. . . . (My CAPS.). . . . But a couple of years
later, Nathaniel Frank. . . [chair of the MIT physics department and
coauthor of the famous textbooks of Slater & Frank] . . . came out to
visit us . . . He came to me and asked me why I hadn't published
about the course and I pulled out the paper and the letter of
rejection and showed it to him. He asked me if he could take it with
him and make some inquiries. Frank stirred up a ruckus at AIP for
which I was later accused of being responsible. Anyway, Osgood's term
as editor expired and Walter Michaels became editor. . . [he]
accepted my paper and it was finally published in AJP in 1959."
[IT APPEARS THAT AJP'S HABIT OF QUICKLY REJECTING SUPERLATIVE PAPERS
ON PHYSICS EDUCATION CONTINUES TO THIS DAY. What makes it even worse
is that AJP publishes, in place of the wheat, chaff such as Klein
Arons, A.B. & R. Karplus. 1976. "Implications of accumulating data on
levels of intellectual development," Am. J. Phys. 44(4): 396; online
to subscribers at
online to all at
Arons, A.B. 1998. "Research in physics education: The early years."
In T.C. Koch and R.G. Fuller, eds., PERC 1998: Physics Education
Research Conference Proceedings 1998, online at
Beichner, R. 2009. "An Introduction to Physics Education Research,"
in Henderson & Harper (2009).
Collea, F.P., R. Fuller, R. Karplus, L.G. Paldy, & J.W. Renner. 1975.
"Workshop Materials: Physics Teaching and the Development of
Reasoning"; online at
See also Fuller (2009).
Dykstra, D. 2009a. "early history of PER," PhysLrnR post of 22 Jun
2009 10:07:56 -0600; online at <http://tinyurl.com/meejd4>.
Dykstra, D. 2009b. "Re: Arnold Arons' Role in the History of Physics
Education Research," PhysLrnR post of 22 Jun 2009 08:47:25-0600;
online at <http://tinyurl.com/mwefmh>.
Fuller, R., R. Karplus, & A.E. Lawson. 1977. "Can Physics Develop
Reasoning: The findings of Swiss scholar Jean Piaget suggest that it
can- by helping people achieve a series of four distinct but
overlapping stages of intellectual growth as they search for patterns
and relationships," Physics Today 30(x):23-28. online to subscribers
at <http://tinyurl.com/nz4w45>. For an earlier Karplus PER paper see
Fuller, R.G., ed. 2002. "A Love of Discovery: Science Education - The
Second Career of Robert Karplus." Kluwer. This is a valuable resource
containing seminal papers of Karplus and his colleagues dating from
1962. Amazon.com information at <http://tinyurl.com/ypv275>. Note the
searchable "Look Inside" feature.
Fuller, R. 2009. "ADAPT Physics Lessons becoming available," PhysLrnR
post of 26 Jun 2009 17:13:54-0600; online at
Hake, R.R. 2004. "The Arons Advocated Method," submitted to the
American Journal of Physics on 24 April 2004; online at
<http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~hake/AronsAdvMeth-8.pdf> (144 kB).
Hake, R.R. 2009. Re: "Arnold Arons' Role in the History of Physics
Education," PhysLrnR post of 23 Jun 2009 23:54:30-0400; online at
Henderson, C. & K.A. Harper, eds. 2009. "Getting Started in Physics
Education Research," online at
Hestenes, D. 1979. "Wherefore a science of teaching?" The Physics
Teacher 17(4): 235-242; online at
<http://modeling.asu.edu/R&E/Wherefore_SciOfTeaching.PDF> (56 kB).
Karplus. R. 1964. "One Physicist Experiments with Science Education,"
Am. J. Phys. 32(11): 837-839; online to subscribers at
For reprints of Karplus's pioneering educational research and
development work, dating from 1962, see Fuller (2002).
Klein, D. 2007. "School math books, nonsense, and the National
Science Foundation," Am. J. Phys. 75(2): 101-102; online at
McKinnon, J.W. & J.W. Renner. 1971. "Are Colleges Concerned with
Intellectual Development?" Am. J. Phys. 39(9): 1047-1052; online to
Renner, J.W. & A.E. Lawson. 1973a. "Piagetian Theory and Instruction
in Physics," Phys. Teach. 11(3): 165-169; online to subscribers at
Renner, J.W. & A.E. Lawson. 1973b. "Promoting Intellectual
Development Through Science Teaching," Phys. Teach. 11(5): 273-276;
online to subscribers at
Richtmyer, F.K. 1933. "Physics is Physics," Am. J. Phys. 1(1): 2-5;
online to subscribers at <http://tinyurl.com/364ns6>. Richtmyer
wrote: "Teaching, I say, is an art, and not a science. . . in no
sense can teaching be said to be a science." For a trenchant response
to Richtmyer and like minded commentators see Hestenes (1979).
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