Magazine article ASEE Prism

Wieman's Reform Ideas Are on Target

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Wieman's Reform Ideas Are on Target

Article excerpt


I recently rea.d the article entitled "Laureate & Rebel" (Prism, April 2010) about Carl Wieman's ideas on scientific education reform.

Like Dr. Wieman. I am very interested in technical education. 1 completely believe, as he so eloquently put it, "fundamentally, I think the future of mankind is at stake here on some level." I believe Dr. Wiernan hit the nail on the head. The article stated, "Even for students who had performed well on exams, once it was time to actually do physics, their performance was 'very poor.'"

I frequently observe this as a student, as a teaching assistant, and as a researcher (I am now a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). Students will do fine on homework problems and exam problems, but when it comes time for an independent project, it is very clear that [hey have not actually achieved a useful level of understanding of the material, which was presented in the course.

"...The students were presented with certain numbers, which, if they had studied their equations, they were able to manipulate to predict what would occur in the circuii."

This is exactly what is required to gel an A in a course. In fact, students are so busy memorizing these equations that they miss the big ideas and concepts that they will look to draw on in the future as employees or researchers. In almost all cases, learning concepts has taken a back seat to doing well in a course - two concepts which should come hand in hand. …

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