Seminar Details

Transforming Teaching in a Physics Department: Educational Reforms that Stick

Michael Dubson, University of Colorado at Boulder
Thursday, November 21, 4:10 PM - Physics and Astronomy Colloquium
Biomedical & Physical Sciences Bldg., Rm. 1415

Over the last 15 years, the undergraduate physics curriculum at CU Boulder has evolved from nearly 100% traditional chalk-and-talk lecture format (in 1996) to less than 20% traditional lecture today, with more than 80% of our classes now using clickers and other forms of interactive engagement. This transformation has spread widely to other departments on the Colorado campus, and today, ALL of the undergraduate students and many grad students on the CU campus now own and use clickers. This transformation began with the big freshmen physics classes but now includes most of the upper-division physics classes. Student satisfaction and learning gains have increased significantly, the number of physics majors has tripled, and the Physics Department is now ranked #1 in both research and teaching in the College of Arts and Sciences at CU. It has been a surprisingly smooth process. Success was due to strong support from the top (administrators and some highly-visible Nobel Prize winners), hard work from the bottom (the Physics Education Research Group), and buy-in from the middle (the occasionally suspicious faculty). I will describe the scholarly and diplomatic role of the Physics Education Research group in this process and the occasional bumps in the road.