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C Wieman (University of Colorado)
Much of the rapid progress of modern science comes from its solid foundation on objective quantitative data, the rapid widespread dissemination and duplication of ideas, results, and successful approaches, and the rapid utilization of technological developments to achieve new capabilities. Unfortunately, scientists usually abandon these powerful tools in their approach to the teaching of science and instead rely on an approach that would be considered little more than individual superstition if used in the context of actual science. Choices of content and presentation in teaching are usually based on tradition or totally subjective judgments of the instructor. I will discuss my efforts to approach teaching physics much as I have done experimental physics. This includes: collecting and utilizing data (both my own and that from the research of others), developing a strategy for dealing with numerous degrees of freedom that one cannot control nearly as well as one would like (whether they are atomic interactions or student attitudes), optimizing the use of the time and money available, and taking advantage of useful new technology. The latter discussion will include some specifics on using technology that allows real time measurement of student learning and engagement in a large class and the development and use of interactive simulations to facilitate conceptual understanding.
Achieving true understanding and appreciation of physics by introductory students is a major challenge. Fortunately, there is sufficient room for improvement in the current educational system that one can fall far short of that ideal and still be making major progress.
Work supported by NSF and the Kavli Operating Institute
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.