[PAST EVENT] Physics Colloquium  - Laurie McNeil

October 29, 2021
4pm - 5pm
Small Hall, Room 111
300 Ukrop Way
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Access & Features
  • Open to the public
Laurie McNeil

Laurie McNeil, Department of Physics and Astronomy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Title of Talk: LEARNING BY DOING RATHER THAN TEACHING BY TELLING Teaching Your Students the Way You Actually Learned

All of us were once science and engineering students before we became professors. We know that the core of our learning took place when we figured out how to apply technical concepts as we wrestled with solving problems, not when our instructors lectured at us. The studio mode of instruction reflects this reality. In traditional lecture-based teaching the instructor transfers information in the classroom and the students struggle on their own to apply that information to specific situations (in homework). Studio-based instruction reverses this—the information transfer takes place outside of class, and class time is used for the students to work collaboratively as they engage in structured hands-on, minds-on application of that information while the instructor provides support. At UNC-CH we have transformed all of our introductory physics courses to use studio-based pedagogy, and as a result we have seen impressive gains in student understanding. This has led us to begin to transform the way we teach upper-division courses as well. I will describe how my department teaches now, and how we accomplished this large-scale transformation.


Laurie McNeil is the Bernard Gray Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). Her research is in experimental condensed matter physics, primarily optical properties of semiconductors and insulators. Beginning in 2004 (when she started a 5-year term as Department Chair) she led her department in a transformation of the teaching of all its introductory physics courses to incorporate effective, research-validated methods; established an apprenticeship program to allow both new and experienced faculty to learn effective pedagogy for teaching at all levels; and instituted a program to prepare physics majors to become high school physics teachers. As a result of these efforts her department received in 2019 the APS Award for Improving Undergraduate Education. Prof. McNeil is currently Past Chair of the APS Forum on Education, and was co-chair of the Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs (convened by APS and the American Association of Physics Teachers) that produced the 2016 report Phys21: Preparing Physics Students for 21st-Century Careers. For her many contributions to physics education the Southeastern Section of the APS awarded her the 2019 George B. Pegram Medal for “Excellence in the Teaching of Physics in the Southeast.”