Bringing Science Education into the 21st Century with Nobel Physicist Carl Wieman

September 10, 2012

Although science has advanced rapidly in the past 500 years, science education has remained largely medieval, some educators argue. Carl Wieman, a Nobel Prize winner in physics who has been devoted to employing a scientific approach to experiment, analyze and implement the best methods for achieving student learning for more than a decade, will visit the University of Virginia Sept. 20 and 21. His appearance is sponsored by the U.Va. Teaching Resource Center and the Office of the Executive Vice President & Provost.

Research on how students learn is revealing much more effective ways to teach and evaluate learning than what is still used in traditional science classes, Wieman said. He will discuss more effective teaching methods that can provide relevant and effective science education for all students and also encourage more students to become scientists.

He will give a presentation the first day, “Science Education in the 21st Century: Using the Methods of Science to Teach Science,” and lead a workshop the next day on “Designing Research-Based Instruction.” 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 likely apply more widely to other disciplines, Wieman said.

U.Va. faculty and graduate teaching assistants are invited to:

Science Education in the 21st Century: Using the Methods of Science to Teach Science

Sept. 20, 3:30-5 p.m., Nau Hall Auditorium

Designing Research-Based Instruction

Sept. 21, 10-12:30 p.m., Auditorium of the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library

Registration is required for the presentation and workshop.

His visit is part of the Teaching Resource Center’s yearlong series of events centered around the question: “How can technological tools and face-to-face teaching best work together to promote meaningful student learning?” The center’s programs will connect these discussions to national conversations around “flipping the classroom,” where material is delivered outside of class in a variety of ways instead of through in-class lectures, and face-to-face time becomes a workshop where students can explore course concepts, apply new knowledge, test their skills and interact through hands-on activities.

Wieman, who received a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973 and Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University in 1977, directs the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia and the Colorado Science Education Initiative. These collaborative programs are aimed at achieving department-wide sustainable improvement in undergraduate science education.

He served as associate director for science in President Obama’s White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 2010 until earlier this year.

Wieman has carried out science research in a variety of areas of atomic physics and laser spectroscopy. His research has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001 for the creation of Bose-Einstein condensation.

Media Contact

Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications