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Experiments in Learning: “In This Class, I Have to Think!”: Learning through Decision-Making in a Sustainable Energy Course

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Event Details:


  • Argenta Price, lecturer, Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability; science education research associate, Physics Department
  • Arun Majumdar, Chester Naramore Dean, Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, Jay Precourt Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Energy Science and Engineering, senior fellow, Precourt Institute for Energy and Hoover Institution
  • Kathryn Moler, vice provost and dean of Research, professor of Applied Physics and of Physics

Instructors often feel a tension between teaching content and teaching important skills such as problem-solving. In this session we will explore a potential mechanism for doing both: problem-based learning following a decision-making framework.

We will use our experiment teaching a sustainable energy course as an example. Because students had to make many decisions including defining the problems, identifying important factors, and deciding what assumptions were appropriate, they learned necessary content and gained an appreciation of the complexity and ambiguity that is inherent in these types of complex problems. We will also discuss how you can incorporate more decisions for students into your courses.

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