Improving How Universities Teach Science: Lessons from the Science Education Initiative

Improving How Universities Teach Science: Lessons from the Science Education Initiative

by Carl Wieman


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Too many universities remain wedded to outmoded ways of teaching science in spite of extensive research showing that there are much more effective methods. Too few departments ask whether what happens in their lecture halls is effective at helping students to learn and how they can encourage their faculty to teach better. But real change is possible, and Carl Wieman shows us how it can be brought about.

Improving How Universities Teach Science draws on Wieman’s unparalleled experience to provide a blueprint for educators seeking sustainable improvements in science teaching. Wieman created the Science Education Initiative (SEI), a program implemented across thirteen science departments at the universities of Colorado and British Columbia, to support the widespread adoption of the best research-based approaches to science teaching. The program’s data show that in the most successful departments 90 percent of faculty adopted better methods. Wieman identifies what factors helped and hindered the adoption of good teaching methods. He also gives detailed, effective, and tested strategies for departments and institutions to measure and improve the quality of their teaching while limiting the demands on faculty time.

Among all of the commentary addressing shortcomings in higher education, Wieman’s lessons on improving teaching and learning stand out. His analysis and solutions are not limited to just one lecture hall or course but deal with changing entire departments and universities. For those who want to improve how universities teach science to the next generation, Wieman’s work is a critical first step.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674972070
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/22/2017
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Carl Wieman is Professor of Physics and of Education at Stanford University. He was the founding chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Science Education from 2004 to 2009, and in 2001 won the Nobel Prize in Physics. He was named U.S. University Professor of the Year in 2004 by the Carnegie Foundation.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Vision 5

2 The SET Model for Achieving Change 22

3 The Process of Making Change 37

4 Science Education Specialists: Agents of Change 68

5 What Was Achieved and What We Learned 92

5 The Post-Mortem: What Worked, What Didn't, and Why 131

Coda 151

Appendix 1 SEI Course Transformation Guide 159

Appendix 2 Guide to Interviewing Students and Faculty 227

Appendix 3 Examples of SES Advertisements and Interview Questions 233

Appendix 4 Sample Questions for SES Interviews 239

Notes 249

Acknowledgments 257

Index 259

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