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Carl Wieman references

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

This page, currently mostly a placeholder, will hold collections of pointers etc. to Carl Wieman's work.

Carl Wieman views on improving Learning & Teaching at all scales


This is the front page to a PDF collecting some things Wieman has written about his view of improving Teaching and Learning (for science) overall (including institutional change).  I like him because he has similar views to mine on the importance of PAL and EVS as elements.  But he doesn’t just fixate on separate elements (e.g. feedback), but thinks about an overall perspective, not unlike the way Bloom did, although with some organizational change thinking too.

I think his perspective is important for reasons including:


Š      He brought home to me that a learner in a lecture is struggling to make sense of each sentence.  That in fact this is constructivism in action at the level of single sentences (not of whole course design).  The consequence is the very low levels of recall seen from lectures.  The struggle comes from:

o   Teachers like me just not understanding how an expert has a rich network so that the lecture works for them by connecting to this network;  but learners do not have that network so that much basic comprehension just fails.

o   Not providing a scaffold to which each item can be linked, so as to organize comprehension on the fly, even though the learner doesn’t understand the scaffold (yet) in any deep sense at all.

o   Overloading working memory e.g. by putting in extraneous connections, using jargon to require extra mental work irrelevant to the main comprehension task, …


Š      His analyses of the wasteful costs in typical HE (in USA) teaching i.e. where savings should come from: see p.11ff. of the 2nd paper here.


Š      His suggestion that diagnostic (formative) testing to check both whether pre-requisite knowledge is there, and what if anything is learned during a course, should be widely deployed on every course.  Not just as a special measure for struggling first years in difficult subjects.  Pp.12-13 of the 2nd paper here.


Š      It’s clear in his autobiography that the important things in his education were not the regular courses or course designs at all, but other things.  This is thought provoking about what is actually important for learning and teaching.


The contents of this PDF file:

Š      This cover sheet / preface.

Š      Wieman,C. (2007) “Why not try a scientific approach to science education?” Change Magazine  2007, Sept/Oct,  vol.39 no.5  pp.9-15

Š      Wieman,C. (20??)  A new model for post-secondary education, the Optimized University

Š      Autobiography


See also:


Š      C. Wieman, K. Perkins and S. Gilbert (2010)  Transforming Science Education at Large Research Universities: A Case Study in Progress”  Change magazine  2010, March/April ,  vol.42 no.2  pp.9-15


He is also behind a number of other interesting papers:

Š      Smith,M.K., Wood,W.B., Adams,W.K., Wieman,C. Knight,J.K., Guild,N. & Su,T.T. (2009) "Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questions" Science vol.323 2 Jan. 2009 pp.122-124  [The most important paper so far published on EVS.  Don’t forget to get the “extra material” associated with it on the Science website.]

Š      The work on the CLASS questionnaire   E.g.:

Adams et al. (2004)  “The Design and Validation of the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey” (2004) Physics Education Research Conference

Š      Perkins,K.K. and Wieman,C.E. (2005) "The Surprising Impact of Seat Location on Student Performance" The Physics Teacher vol.43 January pp.30-33

Waiting for superman

Documentary film on problems, and some radical attempts at solutions, to the USA public school system.
  • Karl Weber (2010) (ed.) Waiting for Superman: How We Can Save America's Failing Public Schools
  • Hanushek,E.A. (2010) "The Difference is Teacher Quality" in Karl Weber (ed.) Waiting for Superman: How We Can Save America's Failing Public Schools (New York: Public Affairs, 2010), pp. 81-100.

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