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Taking a scientific approach to teaching science and engineering

Tuesday, February 6, 2018
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: East Bridge 201
Carl Wieman, Department of Physics, Stanford University

Guided by experimental tests of theory and practice, science has advanced rapidly in the past 500 years. Guided primarily by tradition and dogma, science education meanwhile has remained largely medieval. Research on how people learn is now revealing much more effective ways to teach and evaluate complex thinking and learning than what is in use in the traditional science or engineering class. Students and instructors find such innovative research-based teaching more rewarding, because they involve the disciplinary expertise of the instructor much more extensively and transfer that expertise more effectively. This research is setting the stage for a new approach to teaching and learning that can provide the relevant and effective science education for all students that is needed for the 21st century. I will also cover more meaningful and effective ways to measure the quality of teaching. Although the focus of the talk is on undergraduate science and engineering teaching, the underlying principles come from studies of the general development of expertise and apply widely.

Carl Wieman has held a joint appointment as Professor of Physics and of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University since 2013. Wieman was the founder of PhET which now provides online interactive simulations that are used more than 100 million times per year to learn science in grades 4-16. Wieman directed the science education initiatives at the Universities of Colorado and British Columbia which carried out large scale change in teaching methods across university science departments. He has published a book, "Improving How Universities Teach Science" based on the results and lessons of that program. He also served as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House in 2010-12. He has done extensive experimental research in both atomic physics and science education at the university level. Wieman has received numerous awards recognizing his work in atomic physics, including the Nobel Prize in physics in 2001 for the first creation of a Bose-Einstein condensate. He has also studied student learning and problem solving and the comparative effectiveness of different methods for teaching science. The education work has been recognized with a number of awards including the Carnegie Foundation US University Professor of the Year in 2004, the Oersted Medal for physics education, and a lifetime achievement award from the National Science Teachers Association.

 

 

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