STEM Education Mini-Symposium Plenary 12017-04-10T17:53:03+00:00

Taking a Scientific Approach to the Learning and Teaching of Science and Engineering

Carl Edwin WIEMAN

Professor of Physics and Professor at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, USA


Guided by experimental tests of theory and practice, science and engineering have advanced rapidly in the past 500 years.  Guided primarily by tradition and dogma, the learning and teaching of these subjects meanwhile has remained largely medieval.  Research on how people learn is now revealing much more effective ways to learn, teach, and evaluate learning than what is in use in the traditional college class.  The combination of this research with information technology is setting the stage for a new approach to teaching and learning that can provide the relevant and effective science and engineering education for all students that is needed for the 21st century.  Although the focus of the talk is on undergraduate science and engineering learning and teaching, where the data is the most compelling, the underlying principles come from studies of the general development of expertise and apply widely.


Professor Wieman is a renowned American Nobel Laureate in Physics and educationist. Prof. Wieman obtained a B.Sc. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. degree from Stanford University. Currently he is the Professor of physics and Professor at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. In 1995, he started a collaborative research with Professor Eric Cornell on Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms. Because of this ground-breaking research and his early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates, Prof. Wieman together with Professors Cornell and Wolfgang Ketterle, received the Nobel Prize in 2001.

Apart from the Nobel Prize, Professor Wieman has also been honoured with a slew of national and international awards and positions, including the Einstein Medal for Laser Science, the King Faisal International Prize for Science, the Lorentz Medal, the National Science Foundation’s Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholar, the Camegie Foundation’s U.S. Professor of the Year Award, and the American Association of Physics Teachers’ Oersted Medal. He is a member of the National Academy of Science (NAS) and chairs its board on Science Education. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

As an ardent science educationalist, Prof. Wieman tried different pedagogies to perfect physics teaching. For instance, under peer instruction – a teaching method where better-performing students help out their peers – if the majority of a class have chosen wrong answer, he would have them examine the issue again.  Prof. Wieman has published many monographs and more than 200 research papers in physics and science education. His publications, in particular those on students’ conception of physics as a discipline and how to teach them the problem-solving skills, have helped take evidence-based science education forward.