University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

General News

Heller to be awarded Millikan Medal

Kenneth Heller
Kenneth Heller

Professor Kenneth Heller will receive the 2017 Millikan Medal from the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). The medal recognizes "those who have made notable and intellectually creative contributions to the teaching of physics."

In nominating him for this honor his colleagues noted that he "is an accomplished experimental high-energy physicist who has made important contributions to our understanding of hadrons and neutrinos while mentoring dozens of graduate and undergraduate students in research. Heller has also been a leader over more than two decades in the national conversation about teaching in the introductory physics course. His writings and presentations are deeply insightful and have a standard of scholarship commensurate with his HEP research. Many of Heller's highly practical innovations have been adopted by physics programs around the world, and have spread to other disciplines as well. His emphasis on problem solving reinforces the outlook of most physicists about the essential nature of quantitative thinking in our discipline."

Heller is known for developing a systems approach to supporting the learning of physics through problem solving. This approach emphasizes the importance of the structure of problems including paper and pencil and laboratory problems, the structure and support of student groups, the preparation and support of teaching assistants, and the beliefs and values of faculty. Heller and his research and development group used a variety of methods to establish the research basis for the pedagogy known a Cooperative Group Problem Solving and made the technique adaptable by a wide variety of instructors and institutions.

The pedagogical systems and materials produced by Heller's group are some of the most widely used research validated materials in U.S. colleges and universities. Although developed for introductory physics at the college level, this pedagogy has been influential in teaching advanced physics courses and in other STEM fields as well. The continuing work includes the use of computers on the internet as coaches and the appropriate structure and content of the introductory physics course for biology majors.

Heller will deliver an address at an AAPT Summer Meeting and receive a monetary award, the Millikan Medal, an Award Certificate, and travel expenses to the meeting.

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