Changing university education, one Nobel laureate at a time

Carl Weiman, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics is obviously in a position to give some serious thought to how we teach science at the university level. He has posted a couple of very interesting blogs on the topic, most recently writing about his vision for an instructionally ideal, yet financially realistic university in 2020.

Carl Weiman, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics is obviously in a position to give some serious thought to how we teach science at the university level. He has posted a couple of very interesting blogs on the topic, most recently writing about his vision for an instructionally ideal, yet financially realistic university in 2020.

He doesn't expect that the basic structures of university departments or the disciplines they teach will change much. Rather, he envisions a situation in which

Education in the optimized university will focus on the desired student educational outcomes and these outcomes will be measured and achieved through a structure of pervasive thoughtful use of both research on learning and information technology.

He goes on to suggest that

This focus on learning outcomes is in contrast to current practice of focusing on processes, such as number of students taking certain number of courses covering particular list of topics. If properly implemented, this switch from processes to outcomes will ultimately lead to dramatically improved educational results and improvements in educational efficiency.

Ultimately, the role of university professor as merely a lecturer or one responsible for transferring as much knowledge as possible into students' brains would evolve into that of a shepherd, guiding and designing students' educational experiences based on the faculty's expertise in a given area. As he points out,

A critical part of the educational design will be the ongoing formative assessment, by which the instructor, assisted by technology, will assess each student’s development of mastery and ensure suitable targeted feedback and challenges are provided to him or her to optimize their learning.

Sounds good to me. I never could stay awake during those lectures anyway.

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