Teaching students to think like physicists

Carl Wieman, Stanford University
Location: AQ 3153

Friday, 27 October 2023 02:30PM PDT


I will discuss the two educational challenges that many physicists must confront if the field is to continue to thrive. First, how can we best train advanced students to become skilled physicists, and second, how can we effectively introduce the broad population of introductory students to the joys and value of physicist thinking. My group’s studies of expert problem-solving by scientists has provided insights for how to achieve both these goals. We have identified a set of 29 specific decisions that frame the process by which successful physicists and other scientists solve authentic problems in their fields. I will present how to provide practice and feedback in making these decisions to develop advanced students into skilled physicists. I will also discuss how structuring an introductory college physics course around solving real-world problems following a template based on a subset of these problem-solving decisions allowed more students to succeed, regardless of their prior physics background.

For those who can’t make the Colloquia in person, they will also be viewable on Zoom at the following link: