Professor Carl Wieman
University of Colorado, Boulder

Professional Development and Innovative Tools for Learning Science
Archived Information

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. Modern society needs far more. Our diverse population of students deserves a science education that provides them with a meaningful appreciation of the methods and capabilities of science and with widely useful problem solving skills. These are needed to fully participate in the high-tech economy and to make wise decisions as citizens about the use of our ever more powerful technologies. Research on how people learn science is now revealing how most teachers badly misinterpret what students are thinking and learning from traditional science classes. For example, studies show that a traditional introductory college physics course causes most students to actually become less expert in their problem solving. However, research is also providing insights on how to do much better. The combination of this research with modern information technology is setting the stage for a new more effective approach to science education. This approach will be based on the tools that have led to so much progress in science itself: replace tradition and superstition with practices and principles based on rigorous measurement; use the latest technology effectively (to measure and enhance learning); disseminate and duplicate successful innovations rapidly; and continuously build upon and improve on prior work. I will provide examples of the failures of traditional educational practices, even as used by “very good” teachers, and the successes of some new practices and technology.

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Last Modified: 01/26/2006