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Productive Learning

Science, Art, and Einstein's Relativity in Educational Reform

Use the concept of productive learning to reframe school reform!

This remarkable resource explores how real and lasting educational reform must focus on promoting productive learning contexts. The authors challenge readers' participation with a unique analytical approach based on the development of Einstein's theory of relativity. This learning experience demonstrates for readers how reframing the way we think about school reform and educating our students must embrace the following concepts:

  • Meaningful interpersonal relationships between teachers and students
  • Encouraging and nurturing student curiosities and perspectives
  • Allowing students to bring their knowledge and experience to the learning process

Full description

Product Details
  • Grade Level: PreK-12
  • ISBN: 9781412940603
  • Published By: Corwin
  • Year: 2006
  • Page Count: 280
  • Publication date: April 06, 2014

Price: $43.95

Price: $43.95
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"Fans and disciples of Seymour Sarason all know that education reform needs a change in course. Indeed, the daily practices of schools, education research, and US educational policy all need such a change. Neither Professors Glazek and Sarason, nor anyone else, can give yet a complete description of what these changes would involve. But when the change happens, the leaders of the change will all acknowledge their considerable debt to this book. The reason is that the needed change in school classrooms will be very hard to recognize as such unless these leaders are thoroughly familiar with the concept of 'a context of productive learning.' In this book, Glazek and Sarason collaborated on an extraordinarily daunting attempt to create and analyze a context of productive learning in which, simultaneously, Sarason was the student and Glazek the teacher and vice versa. They attempted what must surely be a 'Mt Everest' example of the concept: explanation of Einstein's famous formula, E=mc². The result should be of intense interest to a broad audience concerned with the present problems of science education as well as the nature of a context of productive learning."
-Kenneth G. Wilson, H. C. Youngberg Trustees Distinguished Professor
Nobel Laureate for Physics, 1982
Department of Physics, The Ohio State University

"By making accessible and intelligible Einstein's theory of relativity, this remarkable book reveals to its readers the power and possibility of their own learning and, in doing so, brilliantly demonstrates the power and necessity of productive learning for everyone."
-Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education
Lynch School of Education, Boston College

"Professors Glazek and Sarason have written a creative and instructive book that will be read for years to come. Drawing upon their backgrounds in physics and psychology, they support Einstein's recommendations as to the importance of the humanities. The authors' purpose is to help readers acquire a substantive grasp of how Einstein accomplished what he did and the implications of this for educational reform. The reader's view of teaching and learning will be forever changed by the authors' insights."
-Dale L. Brubaker, Professor
University of North Carolina

"This is an interesting and provocative book, written by a psychologist with several thousands of hours of observation and analysis of classroom teaching in public schools and a physicist. The book starts with a critique of teaching in our schools and explains why educational reform has been so minimal in its effects. The movie 'Mr. Holland's Opus' is used as a distinguisher between good and bad teaching methodology. These chapters are followed by physics chapters on the foundation of Einstein's E=mc². The authors follow Einstein's thinking and use the features of light as a vehicle for their discussion. They fold in stories and shy away from formulas, which they leave for appendices. The book ends with a chapter on the philosophy of teaching. The book is well written and eminently readable; the arguments are easy to follow. I recommend the book to anyone interested in the basis of modern physics and Einstein's role in it."
-Ernest M. Henley, Professor Emeritus of Physics
University of Washington

Use the concept of productive learning to reframe school reform! 

Why do people, college-bound or even in college, stay away in droves from courses in science, especially physics? Why do people know so little about the significance of Einstein's contributions which require dramatic changes in how we understand ourselves, our world, and the entire universe? Why have educational reforms failed?

In this book, two professors, one a particle physicist and the other a psychologist, confront these questions in a unique way based on the assumption that people can grasp on a non-superficial level what Einstein did in 1905 if, and only if, the features of productive learning are taken seriously. The authors make clear that those features are applicable in teaching any subject matter by devoting two chapters to music and other arts. In the case of science, they chose Einstein's work precisely because of the general belief that it cannot be assimilated by "ordinary mortals" whose brains are not "wired" to comprehend the ways in which time, mass, energy, and the speed of light are seamlessly interrelated.

But this book is not an attempt to popularize Einstein. Its goal is to demonstrate that features of the context of productive learning are applicable to any teacher-student relationship, regardless of whether the student is in first grade, in high school, or in college. Einstein's work was about alignment of frames of reference of observers in physics. A similar process of alignment between the minds of a student and a teacher is the vehicle of productive learning. The book explains the analogy.

The authors discuss and emphasize that educational reform will continue to fail as long as the concept of learning is fuzzy and provides no direction to the teacher-student relationship. Reform efforts will continue to fail unless and until they are based on a clear distinction between contexts of productive and unproductive learning.



Seymour B. Sarason photo

Seymour B. Sarason

Seymour B. Sarason is Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Yale University. During his distinguished 48-year career, he has been one of the most astute observers and incisive critics of efforts to reform our schools. Among his more than 30 published books are The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform (1990), Schooling in America: Scapegoat or Salvation (1983), and The Culture of School and the Problem of Change (2nd ed., 1982).
Table of Contents

Table of Contents

About the Authors


1. Structure of the Book

2. And What Do You Mean by Learning?

3. Mr. Holland’s Opus

4. Transition From Music to E = mc Squared

5. A Letter to the Reader

6. Light Carries Energy

7. How Fast Is Light?

8. What Is Light? What Is Ether?

9. How Can We Describe the Energy of Light?

10. The Principle of Conservation of Energy

11. Max and Ming: Light in the Matchbox

12. Max and Ming Build Their Frames of Reference

13. What Time Is It on a Distant Clock?

14. Max and Ming Review the Concept of Time

15. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

16. How E = mc Squared Comes About

17. Toward a Conception of Learning


Appendix A: Energy of Motion of a Body

Appendix B: Frequencies and Energies of Photons If Time Is Absolute

Appendix C: Max’s Time Coordinates of Four Events

Appendix D: Is the Speed of Light Special?

Appendix E: Einstein’s Relationship Between Frames of Reference

Appendix F: Time and the Pythagorean Theorem

Appendix G: How Gamma Depends on v

Appendix H: Energy of Photons According to Ming

Appendix I: How Absorption of Light Changes Mass

Appendix J: Lenard and Einstein





Price: $43.95
Volume Discounts applied in Shopping Cart

For Instructors

Request Review Copy

When you select 'request review copy', you will be redirected to Sage Publishing (our parent site) to process your request.