Plenary Speaker Profile (1998-99)
Lillian C. McDermott
Professor of Physics
University of Washington
Bridging the Gap Between Teaching and Learning: The Role of Research

The difference between what is taught and what is learned is often greater than many science instructors realize. The discrepancy is demonstrated in the context of several studies in which we examined how well students who have taken physics at the introductory level and beyond understand some basic physical concepts. The role of research in identifying and addressing specific difficulties is described in terms of specific examples. These provide a basis for several generalizations that have important implications for the teaching of introductory science courses and for the preparation of precollege teachers and graduate teaching assistants.

Dr. Lillian C. McDermott is Director of the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, which engages in research on the learning and teaching of physics, designs curriculum for mainstream students, conducts programs for the preparation of prospective and practicing teachers of physics and physical science, and conducts TA training seminars and professional development workshops for college and university faculty. The group developed the curriculum Physics by Inquiry and is currently developing Tutorials in Introductory Physics. McDermott is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has been a Councillor of the American Physical Society and a member of the APS Board. She received the American Association of Physics Teachers' Distinguished Service Citation in 1981, and the AAPT's Robert A. Millikan Lecture Award for her contributions to physics education research in 1990. In 1983, McDermott received the Seattle Urban League's Affirmative Action Award for her work in helping minority students succeed in physics.