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College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan. - March 2012 > University of Michigan's Coppola to Give Waterbury Speech in February

University of Michigan's Coppola to Give Waterbury Speech in February

A wolverine from the University of Michigan, Brian P. Coppola, will deliver a talk on Feb. 16 in the Waterbury Lecture Series.

Headshot of Brian Cooplaby Patrick Beal (January 2012)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A wolverine from the University of Michigan will speak as part of the annual Waterbury Lecture Series. Brian P. Coppola, professor of chemistry at Michigan, will present a speech on proper assignments that best advance the curriculum.

The lecture will take place February 16 at 4:00 p.m. in 102 Chemistry Building on Penn State's University Park campus. Coppola’s lecture, titled “Do Real Work, Not Homework,” will be followed by light refreshments at Whiskers in the Nittany Lion Inn.

“Brian changes the conversation in classrooms and lecture halls,” said Richard Duschl, Waterbury chaired professor in secondary education, “such that students meaningfully learn chemistry for performances in life and not merely learning chemistry for one performance on an exam.”

Coppola has been teaching at Michigan since 1986, immediately beginning research on a blueprint to modify the university’s undergraduate chemistry curriculum. That research led to his tenure review in 1996, which showed the College of Literature, Science, and Arts (LSA) had a discipline-based teaching curriculum. He was upgraded to full professor of chemistry in 2001.

Since teaching at Michigan, Coppola has been named an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor (a title that endows him with a $20,000 grant to further his teaching prowess), associate chair in the LSA Department, associate director of Michigan’s dual effort with Peking University in China, and co-director of the Instructional Development and Educational Assessment (IDEA) Institute.

Coppola was recently named by Baylor University as the 2012 recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, the only national teaching award--with the single largest monetary reward of $250,000--presented by a college or university to an individual for exceptional teaching.

On top of his positions of leadership, Coppola has garnered teaching awards on the university, state, and national levels. He has been published by numerous chemistry and education journals, and he has sat on the editorial boards of multiple publications. Throughout his endeavors, Coppola has tried to find ways to improve teaching theory and practice.

“Very quickly one recognizes the deep insights he has for communicating science to learners,” says Duschl. “Imagine my pleasant surprise when I opened up The Chronicle of Higher Education and read that he was the recipient of the Research 1 University Outstanding Teacher Award. I said, ‘I have got to get him here to Penn State.’” The Waterbury Lecture is held twice a semester and features prominent speakers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

The Waterbury Lecture Series is sponsored by an endowment from Kenneth Waterbury to the Penn State College of Education to create the Kenneth B. Waterbury Chair in Secondary Education. The organization’s research focuses on advancing teacher education programs and on the design of learning environments that seek and promote collaborations among STEM education.

The Waterbury Lecture Series continues later this academic year:

  • Kathleen Metz, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, will present “Learning Progressions Approach to Teaching Difficult Ideas” on March 22. The time and location will be announced.
  • Mark Windschitl, professor of science education at the University of Washington, will deliver a talk titled “Ambitious Teaching as the ‘New Normal’ in American Science Classrooms” on April 23 at 6:00 p.m. in 112 Walker Building.