Plenary Speaker Profile (2002)
Susan Wyckoff
Professor of Physics
Arizona State University
Can Large Enrollment Courses Be Taught More Effectively?

Research demonstrated decades ago that lecturing is a highly ineffective teaching method. Yet large enrollment lecture courses remain the dominant means of teaching introductory undergraduate science courses. Conversion of a large enrollment introductory physics class from a passive to an active learning environment has been accomplished with relatively little effort and few resources. The research-informed teaching strategies introduced into the course design and the inquiry-oriented teaching style have resulted in substantial improvements in student learning. Data collected over several years consistently indicate dramatic improvements (factors of two) in students' understanding of fundamental physics concepts compared with control groups. Additional data indicate that the improved student learning can be attributed to the changes introduced.

Susan Wyckoff received her B.A. from Mt. Holyoke College and her Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in physics and astronomy. She joined the physics faculty at Arizona State University in 1979 and served as department chair from 1990-93. She has held visiting appointments at the University of Michigan, Tel-Aviv University, the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Ohio State University, the University of Heidelberg and Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories. From 1982-1990 she directed the International Halley Watch, a NASA project to study Halley's Comet. From 1994-2000 she directed the Arizona Collaborative for Excellence in Preparation of Teachers (ACEPT), an effort by eleven institutions to improve the undergraduate teaching of science and mathematics. She now directs the Electronic Collaborative for Excellence in the Preparation of Teachers (ECEPT), and co-directs the Arizona Teachers Coalition (AzTEC). Her current research interests include star formation, origins of planetary systems and physics education.

Her publications include two books, several book chapters and more than 200 refereed journal articles, popular articles and conference proceedings. She has supervised over 20 postdoctorals and graduate students in physics education or astrophysics, and conducts workshops on physics teaching.