A scientific approach to teaching science and engineering

Presented by ANU College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences

Guided by experimental tests of theory and practice, science and engineering have 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, learn, and evaluate learning than what is in use in the traditional science class. The combination of this research with information technology 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. Although the focus of the talk is on undergraduate science teaching, where the data is the most compelling, the underlying principles come from studies of the general development of expertise and apply widely.  

About the speaker

Carl Wieman holds a joint appointment as Professor of Physics and of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. He has done extensive experimental research in both atomic physics and science education at the university level. Wieman served as founding chair of the Board of Science Education of the National Academy of Sciences and was the founder of PhET which provides online interactive simulations that are used 100 million times per year to learn science. 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 served as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House in 2010-12.  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 University Professor of the Year in 2004, the Oersted Medal for physics education, and a lifetime achievement award from the National Science Teachers Association.