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Professor Carl Wieman to Inaugurate a New Stanford Lecture Series on Advancing Teaching and Learning

April 10, 2017
Professor Carl Wieman

BY SIMON FIRTH

April 12 at 3:00 PM in the Clubhouse Ballroom at the Old Union, Nobelist and Professor of both Physics and Education Carl Wieman will give the first in a new series of talks at Stanford on Advancing Teaching and Learning, titled “Taking a Scientific Approach to Science and Engineering Education.” A reception will follow his presentation. 

Each presentation in the series will offer strategies that are supported by research for improving the design, planning, and implementation of programs, courses, and other learning experiences for college students in both the sciences and humanities. 
 
“The whole campus community is invited to these talks,” said Vera Michalchik, Director of Evaluation and Research for the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (VPTL), which is sponsoring the series. “We’d love them to be the basis for greater insight and more discussion among faculty, staff, and students of what makes for a good learning experience and strong educational outcomes for Stanford students.” 
 
“Professor Wieman is the ideal person to kick off this series,” Michalchik added. “In addition to being a distinguished physicist in his own right, he’s a frequent keynote speaker on what makes for better learning outcomes in STEM education and has done a tremendous amount of work around the question of how we can help students have positive experiences when asked to engage with challenging material.”
 
A former Associate Director for Science in the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, and founding chair of the Board of Science Education of the National Academy of Sciences, Wieman now runs a Stanford lab that investigates expert thinking in science, particularly physics, and how it can be effectively taught and assessed. 
 
In his “Science of Learning” presentation, Wieman will focus on proven techniques for improving science education. He’ll discuss the value of replacing lectures with active learning where students work collaboratively in the classroom to solve problems that advance their understanding of critical science concepts. Wieman will also explore how undergraduate lab classes can be transformed from rote exercises in measurement to engagement in genuine exploration while practicing the discipline of science. 
 
“I will discuss how research on how people learn is now revealing much more effective ways to teach and learn than what is in use in the traditional science and engineering classes,” said Wieman. 
 
Future talks in the VPTL “Advancing Teaching and Learning” series will address other areas of innovation in university-level teaching and learning that are supported by a significant body of research. The talks will offer new insights into humanistic inquiry and learning as well as learning in scientific and engineering fields. Talks are expected to be offered on a quarterly.
 
“The better we can all anchor our practices in research that investigates learning in diverse disciplines, the better we’ll serve students at Stanford, ensuring that they make the very best of the extraordinary resources and opportunities while they are here,” suggested Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, John Mitchell. 
 
VPTL is already collaborating with several Stanford departments and numerous individual faculty to institute new approaches to STEM education, Michalchik notes. 
 
“We offer a wide array of consultative services and technological resources, and stand ready to help anyone looking to take their teaching in the exciting directions that we will be highlighting in this series,” she said.