Dr. Carl Wieman visits DIT

19 May 2009:  At the invitation of DIT, Nobel Laureate Dr. Carl Wieman, paid his first visit to Ireland this week to give a series to talks to educators at second and third level.  The first of three sessions was aimed specifically at teachers of science at second level, while audiences for the other sessions primarily included academics at third level teaching and researching in science and technology.   Renowned as a physicist and winner of the Nobel Prize in 2001, Dr. Wieman started by warning his audience that they should not accept what he says on the grounds of that prestigious prize, but rather on the findings of his research into teaching methodology.  Taking the data from this extensive research, first in the University of Colorado and more recently at the University of British Columbia, Wieman believes that it is possible to make a significant step forward in education.  ?If we look at what the research data tells us, it is possible to identify what are the effective and ineffective ways of teaching.  We should be guided by this research on learning, and develop methods which are more efficient both for the learner and for the educator.?  

Science teachers from secondary schools at the Wieman lecture

As a scientist, Dr. Wieman focused on the teaching of science, but he contends that the points he makes about effective and ineffective teaching methods generally apply to all subjects and to teaching at all levels.  He was self-deprecating in his description of his own early experience of teaching and his assumption that because he had explained something to his own satisfaction that it must be the students? problem if they hadn?t understood.  However, he came to realise that a lecture is not the most effective way to transmit knowledge.  It took some time, and a great deal of research, to re-evaluate how learning takes place and how much ? or how little ? the short-term memory can absorb and retain.  Answering questions from the floor, Dr. Wieman emphasised the importance of engaging students in dialogue, with their teachers but also with their peers.  The research he and colleagues have carried out, demonstrates clearly that students learn and retain more when they have been involved in debate about the problem put to them.  He invited teachers and lecturers present not only to take his advice but to feel free to use the models provided on his website as they are based on extensive research, have been constructed with considerable expertise and have been rigorously tested.

Dr. Wieman explaining the findings of his research

To mark his visit to Dublin, the Lord Mayor of Dublin City, Eibhlin Byrne invited Dr. Wieman to visit her at the Mansion House, accompanied by his wife and research collaborator, Dr. Sarah Gilbert, and Dr. Frank McMahon, Director of Academic Affairs at DIT.

Dr. Frank McMahon, Director of Academic Affairs and
Dr. Carl Wieman visiting the Lord Mayor of Dublin,
Eibhlin Byrne at the Mansion House

To make this unique opportunity accessible to colleagues in other institutions around the country, Dr. Wieman?s lecture was streamed live via HEAnet and the recorded version is now available at http://asx.heanet.ie/dit/DrWieman.asx

Dr. Brian Bowe, Head of Learning Development, Faculty of Engineering;
Dr. Carl Wieman; Professor Brian Norton, President of DIT;
and Dr. Frank McMahon, Director of Academic Affairs

Download the lectures

Dr. Carl Wieman:

Dr. Wieman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001 for the creation of Bose-Einstein condensation. He is also renowned as a pioneer in the area of learning and teaching, with a passion for developing new and better ways to teach science.  He founded the very successful science education initiative at the University of Colorado and building on that success, he was invited to set up the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia in 2007. These initiatives are aimed at achieving ?sustainable improvement in undergraduate science education? and his primary focus is on science education, but his methodology is of interest to academics teaching undergraduates in all disciplines. According to Dr. Wieman, ?Research from cognitive psychology and higher education science class rooms has demonstrated much more effective ways to educate and assess today?s students.? 

Biography: http://www.dit.ie/media/documents/newsroom/0509_Carl-Wieman-Biog.pdf


Participants from the floor at the Wieman lecture





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