Bio


Carl Wieman holds a joint appointment as Professor of Physics and of the Graduate School of Education. He has done extensive experimental research in atomic and optical physics. His current intellectual focus is now on undergraduate physics and science education. He has pioneered the use of experimental techniques to evaluate the effectiveness of various teaching strategies for physics and other sciences, and recently served as Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Academic Appointments


Honors & Awards


  • Carnegie US University Professor of the Year, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2003)
  • Nobel Prize in Physics 2001, Nobel Foundation (2001)

Professional Education


  • Ph.D., Stanford University, Physics (1977)
  • B.S., MIT, Physics (1973)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


The Wieman group’s research generally focuses on the nature of expertise in science and engineering, particularly physics, and how that expertise is best learned, measured, and taught. This involves a range of approaches, including individual cognitive interviews, laboratory experiments, and classroom interventions with controls for comparisons. We are also looking at how different classroom practices impact the attitudes and learning of different demographic groups.

Some current projects include:
1. Investigating problem solving strategies. We are examining the detailed components in problem solving to determine how these combine to achieve problem solving success, and how the strengths and weaknesses of a learners strategy can be measured and then improved. This work involves physics based computer simulations where students decide what information to seek, how to interpret the information they get, and then how they choose to act on that information. The goals of this research are, primarily, to identify which aspects of problem solving strategies pave the way to expertise and how to teach these effectively.

2. Cognitive principles for instructional design
Although current “active learning” efforts have been shown to provide better learning outcomes than traditional instructional methods, there is currently little guidance on how to design such materials to best support learning. We are designing, implementing, and studying instructional materials that take into account findings on human cognition, such as the benefits of inventing from a series of contrasting cases (e.g. Schwartz et al., 2011). By studying the efficacy of these materials, we hope to provide instructors, curriculum developers, and researchers with new principles for designing effective instructional materials for typical classroom instruction. A particular focus at this time is the use and learning of mechanistic reasoning, a fundamental component of physic expertise, as well as many other sciences.

3. Uses of PhET Simulations across the K-16 curriculum
PhET simulations (phet.colorado.edu) are interactive science simulations that are extensively used by a wide range of students and teachers (around 100 million uses this year in a variety of science classrooms, from elementary schools through college). Because simulations are used by such a wide range of students, we are researching what and how students of different ages and scientific backgrounds learn from them. How effective are PhET simulations at motivating and engaging such a wide range of students in science? We aim to determine which aspects of the simulations best support learning across a range of student ages and backgrounds, and what sorts of supporting materials or instruction are most effective for those different students. In addition, we are looking into what learning outcomes PhET simulations facilitate, from learning specific science concepts, to exploring the underlying mechanisms of the phenomenon, to developing inquiry or metacognitive skills.
Identifying student inquiry skills

4. The assessment and learning of adaptive medical expertise. Although medical education focuses heavily on mastery factual information and procedures under carefully identified conditions, medical practice takes place in a much less controlled environment. There are many other possibly relevant and irrelevant factors a doctor must take into account. This calls for adaptive expertise, the capability to operate in new contexts and learn new things as needed. We are working on the better assessment of such adaptive expertise and ultimately on the improvement of medical teaching to better teach it.

2018-19 Courses


Stanford Advisees


All Publications


  • Concepts First, Jargon Second Improves Student Articulation of Understanding BIOCHEMISTRY AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY EDUCATION McDonnell, L., Barker, M. K., Wieman, C. 2016; 44 (1): 12-19

    View details for DOI 10.1002/bmb.20922

    View details for Web of Science ID 000373010200002

  • Measuring the impact of an instructional laboratory on the learning of introductory physics AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICS Wieman, C., Holmes, N. G. 2015; 83 (11): 972-978

    View details for DOI 10.1119/1.4931717

    View details for Web of Science ID 000363529400014

  • Teaching critical thinking PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Holmes, N. G., Wieman, C. E., Bonn, D. A. 2015; 112 (36): 11199-11204

    Abstract

    The ability to make decisions based on data, with its inherent uncertainties and variability, is a complex and vital skill in the modern world. The need for such quantitative critical thinking occurs in many different contexts, and although it is an important goal of education, that goal is seldom being achieved. We argue that the key element for developing this ability is repeated practice in making decisions based on data, with feedback on those decisions. We demonstrate a structure for providing suitable practice that can be applied in any instructional setting that involves the acquisition of data and relating that data to scientific models. This study reports the results of applying that structure in an introductory physics laboratory course. Students in an experimental condition were repeatedly instructed to make and act on quantitative comparisons between datasets, and between data and models, an approach that is common to all science disciplines. These instructions were slowly faded across the course. After the instructions had been removed, students in the experimental condition were 12 times more likely to spontaneously propose or make changes to improve their experimental methods than a control group, who performed traditional experimental activities. The students in the experimental condition were also four times more likely to identify and explain a limitation of a physical model using their data. Students in the experimental condition also showed much more sophisticated reasoning about their data. These differences between the groups were seen to persist into a subsequent course taken the following year.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1505329112

    View details for Web of Science ID 000360994900034

    View details for PubMedID 26283351

  • Analyzing the many skills involved in solving complex physics problems AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICS Adams, W. K., Wieman, C. E. 2015; 83 (5): 459-467

    View details for DOI 10.1119/1.4913923

    View details for Web of Science ID 000353306500010

  • The teaching practices inventory: a new tool for characterizing college and university teaching in mathematics and science. CBE life sciences education Wieman, C., Gilbert, S. 2014; 13 (3): 552-569

    Abstract

    We have created an inventory to characterize the teaching practices used in science and mathematics courses. This inventory can aid instructors and departments in reflecting on their teaching. It has been tested with several hundred university instructors and courses from mathematics and four science disciplines. Most instructors complete the inventory in 10 min or less, and the results allow meaningful comparisons of the teaching used for the different courses and instructors within a department and across different departments. We also show how the inventory results can be used to gauge the extent of use of research-based teaching practices, and we illustrate this with the inventory results for five departments. These results show the high degree of discrimination provided by the inventory, as well as its effectiveness in tracking the increase in the use of research-based teaching practices.

    View details for DOI 10.1187/cbe.14-02-0023

    View details for PubMedID 25185237

  • Large-scale comparison of science teaching methods sends clear message. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Wieman, C. E. 2014; 111 (23): 8319-8320

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1407304111

    View details for PubMedID 24853505

  • Psychological insights for improved physics teaching PHYSICS TODAY Aguilar, L., Walton, G., Wieman, C. 2014; 67 (5): 43-49

    View details for DOI 10.1063/PT.3.2383

    View details for Web of Science ID 000341446300018

  • Use of research-based instructional strategies: How to avoid faculty quitting PHYSICAL REVIEW SPECIAL TOPICS-PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH Wieman, C., Deslauriers, L., Gilley, B. 2013; 9 (2)
  • The Connection Between Teaching Methods and Attribution Errors EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW Wieman, C., Welsh, A. 2016; 28 (3): 645-648
  • Examining and contrasting the cognitive activities engaged in undergraduate research experiences and lab courses PHYSICAL REVIEW PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH Holmes, N. G., Wieman, C. E. 2016; 12 (2)
  • Toward instructional design principles: Inducing Faraday's law with contrasting cases PHYSICAL REVIEW PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH Kuo, E., Wieman, C. E. 2016; 12 (1)
  • Seeking instructional specificity: An example from analogical instruction PHYSICAL REVIEW SPECIAL TOPICS-PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH Kuo, E., Wieman, C. E. 2015; 11 (2)
  • Transforming a fourth year modern optics course using a deliberate practice framework PHYSICAL REVIEW SPECIAL TOPICS-PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH Jones, D. J., Madison, K. W., Wieman, C. E. 2015; 11 (2)
  • Educational transformation in upper-division physics: The Science Education Initiative model, outcomes, and lessons learned PHYSICAL REVIEW SPECIAL TOPICS-PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH Chasteen, S. V., Wilcox, B., Caballero, M. D., Perkins, K. K., Pollock, S. J., Wieman, C. E. 2015; 11 (2)
  • Comparative Cognitive Task Analyses of Experimental Science and Instructional Laboratory Courses PHYSICS TEACHER Wieman, C. 2015; 53 (6): 349-351

    View details for DOI 10.1119/1.4928349

    View details for Web of Science ID 000365798300009

  • The Similarities Between Research in Education and Research in the Hard Sciences EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER Wieman, C. E. 2014; 43 (1): 12-14
  • PRECISION-MEASUREMENT OF THE 1S LAMB SHIFT AND OF THE 1S-2S ISOTOPE SHIFT OF HYDROGEN AND DEUTERIUM PHYSICAL REVIEW A Wieman, C., Hansch, T. W. 1980; 22 (1): 192-205
  • DOPPLER-FREE LASER POLARIZATION SPECTROSCOPY PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Wieman, C., Hansch, T. W. 1976; 36 (20): 1170-1173
  • HIGH-RESOLUTION MEASUREMENT OF RESPONSE OF AN ISOLATED BUBBLE-DOMAIN TO PULSED MAGNETIC-FIELDS IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON MAGNETICS Brown, B. R., Henry, G. R., KOEPCKE, R. W., Wieman, C. E. 1975; 11 (5): 1391-1393
  • DOPPLER-FREE 2-PHOTON SPECTROSCOPY OF HYDROGEN 1S-2S PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Hansch, T. W., Lee, S. A., Wallenstein, R., Wieman, C. 1975; 34 (6): 307-309