Ken Heller

Ken Heller

Professor of Physics and Associate Head
School of Physics and Astronomy
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone:612 624 7314

Background Information

Ken Heller is a Professor of Physics at the University of Minnesota where he holds the positions of Institute of Technology Professor and Morse Alumni Professor. He has two research groups. One in experimental high energy physics investigating neutrino oscillations and the other in physics education research investigating improving student problem solving. His undergraduate degree is from the University of California, Berkeley and his PhD is from the University of Washington. He was also a member of the Peace Corps serving in Nigeria and in Kenya.

Ken is involved has been involved with many national educational activities including organizing workshops for graduate education, post secondary teaching introductory science classes, teaching assistant support, cooperative learning, pedagogy for new physics faculty, and problem solving for the American Physical Society, American Institute of Physics, American Association of Physics Teachers, and National Research Council. He is also a past president of the American Association of Physics Teachers and Chair of the American Physical Society Forum on Education. Regionally he has participated in committees to formulate pre-college educational goals in Minnesota. He has also been active in changing the educational process in physics at the University of Minnesota. He is a member of the University of Minnesota Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

Ken's educational work focuses on educational change by treating a class as a complex, non-linear system with many interacting parameters using the theory of Cognitive Apprenticeship as a guide. In particular he has developed Context-Rich problems which aid students to develop their problem solving and conceptual knowledge, cooperative group techniques for effective coaching, and support systems for teaching assistants working in a course. He has studied the beliefs and values of professors to begin to determine what guides the adoption or rejection of certain pedagogies.

Ken owes whatever progress he has made to a great group of graduate students, post docs, and colleagues.

Related Pedagogical Projects

Ken Heller is currently working on an NSF funded project to develop computer coaches for problem solving in physics and develop an instrument to assess student problem solving. At the University of Minnesota he is developing an introductory physics course that is appropriate for biology majors both in content and in mathematical sophistication.