MacVicar Day 2008

By Leann Dobranski, Assistant Director, Teaching and Learning Lab

Five MIT faculty members were named MacVicar Fellows for their excellence in undergraduate teaching on March 7th. MacVicar Day is an annual celebration which recognizes contributions to undergraduate education at MIT. The program began with a lecture on science education by Nobel Laureate Carl E. Wieman ’73, and was followed by a faculty reception hosted by President Susan Hockfield at Gray House.

At the reception, the awards were presented by the Provost to the 2008 MacVicar Faculty Fellows – Biology Professor Tania Baker, Materials Science and Engineering Professor Craig W. Carter, Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Sanjay E. Sarma, Literature Professor Stephen J. Tapscott, and Physics Professor Barton Zwiebach.

The Teaching and Learning Laboratory was pleased to welcome Dr. Carl Wieman to campus to address the MIT community about his research on improving student learning. He began the talk by recalling his memory of conversations with the late Margaret L. MacVicar ’64, when she was trying to find funding to support undergraduate research in MIT laboratories. This initiative ultimately led to the creation of MIT’s UROP program, in which Wieman was one of the early participants.

Dr. Wieman currently heads the Weiman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia. His talk stressed the need to look towards brain and cognitive research to improve teaching methods. He explained the difficulties associated with engaging students during lecture, citing evidence from cognitive science research that individuals have a poor ability to retain large amounts of concentrated information. He suggested that involving students in lecture through interactive demonstrations, group discussions, and technology such as remote control “clickers” devices can help improve student learning.