Gregg Franklin Wins Mellon College of Science Award for Education-Dept of Physics - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gregg Franklin Wins Mellon College of Science Award for Education

Professor and Physics Department Head Gregg Franklin received The Richard Moore Award for his substantial and sustained contributions to the educational mission of MCS. Throughout his almost-30-year career with MCS, Franklin has donned many hats—faculty member, associate dean of MCS, head of the physics department—and, no matter the role, has dedicated himself to engaging students in the study of science.

In the early 1990s Franklin, together with Physics and Education Professor Fred Reif, revamped key components of the introductory Physics I course. During recitations, instead of watching a TA solve problems at the board, Franklin and Reif encouraged students to work in pairs to solve problems, a technique that forces students to think more deeply about the work they are doing. Franklin also replaced TA office hours with Course Centers, places where students can work with TAs as well as with other students. These changes continue to help students be more active and engaged in and out of the classroom.

During his many years teaching Physics I, Franklin developed a series of multiple-choice questions that tested students’ conceptual understanding. At first he posed these questions during lectures, and students answered the questions on paper. But Franklin quickly realized that this wasn’t a very efficient way of gauging student understanding, so he introduced “clickers,” an interactive technology that enabled him to immediately collect and view the responses from the entire class. Franklin’s early use of remote clickers was a success and has since been adopted by professors throughout the university.

Beyond Physics I, Franklin created courses for non-physics majors, including an interdisciplinary course that focused on 1905, the year that Albert Einstein published four papers that changed the face of physics, and a version of Richard Muller’s “Physics for Future Presidents” course that arms students with some of the physics concepts behind hot button issues that dominate today’s political discourse.