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Cardiff attracts Nobel laureate for inspiring lecture on how to teach science

21 May 2021

Carl Wieman
Professor Carl Wieman of Stanford University.

Nobel laureate, Professor Carl Wieman of Stanford University delivered an enlightening lecture this April, part of the ‘Cardiff-UCL Discipline-Based STEM Education Research’ webinar series organised by Cardiff’s Dr Andrea Jiménez Dalmaroni.

The exciting lecture, entitled Taking a Scientific Approach to Teaching Science, looks at how science education can be transformed, based on key insights gained from research on both the teaching and learning elements.

Wieman says,

“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 learning versus what is currently in use in the traditional science class.

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.”

During the lecture, Wieman discussed this research, demonstrating how both students and instructors can find such teaching more rewarding, as well as covering more meaningful and effective ways to measure the quality of teaching.

Dr Andrea Jiménez Dalmaroni of Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy organises the webinar series Cardiff-UCL Discipline-Based STEM Education Research, giving Wieman the stage for this important talk.

Dr Jiménez Dalmaroni tells us,

“Professor Carl Wieman clearly highlighted the urgent need to review our teaching practices and bring more evidence-based education innovation to the university curriculum.

For this, it is crucial to support the development of discipline-based education research within STEM departments. I hope very much that the webinar series continues to inspire colleagues aiming to achieve this goal.”

The Cardiff-UCL Discipline-Based STEM Education Research webinar series aims to support academics to get closer to experts in the field of STEM education research and thus, provides an opportunity for discussions on the latest developments in evidence-based STEM education.

The webinars are kindly sponsored by the IOP Higher Education Group and the Royal Society of Chemistry Higher Education Group.

Carl Wieman is a professor of physics and education at Stanford University. He has done extensive experimental research in both atomic physics (Nobel Prize in physics, 2001) and university science and engineering education (Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year, 2004).  He founded PhET, which provides online interactive simulations that are used 100 million times/year to learn science, and recently published a book titled Improving How Universities Teach Science.  He is currently studying expertise and problem solving in science and engineering disciplines and how this can be better measured and taught.

Although the focus of his talk was on undergraduate science and engineering teaching, Wieman pointed out that where the data is the most compelling, the underlying principles come from studies of the general development of expertise and can be applied on a much broader scope.

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