Carl Wieman – Taking a Scientific Approach to Science Education

Dr. Carl Wieman, Nobel laureate & Professor of Physics at Stanford University, is calling for a culture change in science education. Guided by experimental tests of theory and practice, science has advanced rapidly in the past 500 years. Meanwhile, guided primarily by tradition and dogma, science education has remained largely medieval. Research on how people learn is now revealing much more effective ways to teach 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.

Q&A will follow the address.


Carl Wieman received his B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973 and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1977. He taught at the University of Colorado from 1984 to 2006 as a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Presidential Teaching Scholar. In January 2007, he joined the University of British Columbia as the Director of the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative although he retains a part-time appointment at the University of Colorado to head the science education initiative he founded there. These collaborative initiatives are aimed at achieving departmental-wide sustainable improvement in undergraduate science education. Wieman has carried out research in a variety of areas of atomic physics and laser spectroscopy and has been recognized with numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001 for the creation of Bose-Einstein condensation.

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