Gutenberg Teaching Award goes to Stanford leader in science education

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Carl Wieman (Photo courtesy Sanford Graduate School of Education)

CARL WIEMAN, professor of education and of physics at Stanford, was selected to receive the 2016 Gutenberg Teaching Award for his efforts to raise teaching quality.

He is the third winner of the prize, which was established in 2014 to honor researchers, artists and scholars in the humanities and sciences who have made significant contributions to the improvement of teaching in higher education. It is given by the Gutenberg Teaching Council at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in Rhineland Palatinate, Germany.

Wieman, a Nobel laureate in physics in 2001, has been an outspoken advocate for teaching reform at U.S. universities, proposing that colleges be required to evaluate and report the quality of their instruction and calling for the adoption of more effective teaching methods. A recent story on National Public Radio, for instance, featured his criticism of lecture courses and his findings, along with other researchers, that students learn better from group discussions, in-class problem solving and more individualized interaction with professors.

“I know you can double how much a student learns depending on what method the instructor’s using,” Wieman told the NPR reporter.

In an interview a few years ago, he explained: “There’s a solid body of research: It shows that if you just lecture at students, they don’t learn nearly as much as if you’d used other ways to teach that get them far more mentally engaged — practicing thinking like scientists.”

Wieman came to Stanford in 2013 with a joint appointment in the faculties of the Graduate School of Education and the Department of Physics. He previously had served as associate director in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology and was on the faculties at University of Colorado, Boulder, and the University of British Columbia, where he spearheaded major science education initiatives.

The two other winners of the Gutenberg Teaching Award are JOHN GREENFIELD, professor of German studies and literature at the University of Porto in Portugal, in 2014 and MASAAKI SUZUKI, director and conductor of the Bach Collegium Japan and professor of organ and harpsichord at the Tokyo University of the Arts, in 2015.

The Gutenberg Award comes with 10,000 (about $11,221) and a visiting fellowship at Gutenberg University during which the recipient is invited to meet with colleagues in his or her field to discuss innovations in teaching.

The award winner is selected by the Gutenberg Teaching Council, a unit of Gutenberg University devoted to promoting and developing academic teaching competence.

Wieman’s contributions to education have been honored previously with other awards, such as the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service to Education in 2014 and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s U.S. Professor of the Year in 2004.

This item was originally published on the Graduate School of Education’s news website.