Michael Wysession Named New Executive Director of The Teaching Center

Prof. Michael Wysession in his office with the stack of textbooks that he has written.
Photo by Joe Angeles

On July 1, 2018, Dr. Michael Wysession became Executive Director of Washington University’s Teaching Center. Michael earned his Sc.B. from Brown University and his PhD from Northwestern University, both in geophysics. Since 1991 he has been a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

As an established leader in seismology and geoscience education, author of more than 100 academic articles, and coauthor of more than 30 textbook volumes, Michael brings to the Teaching Center a wealth of experience and a commitment to improving undergraduate education. He explains, “I believe there are a lot of serious challenges facing our country right now, from the erosion of democracy to the destruction of the biosphere, and these challenges can only be met with effective education. This has become increasingly apparent to me after decades of traveling the country, training teachers from grade school to grad school on effective pedagogic methods. We can all point to teachers from our own pasts who inspired us to action in one way or another; we have an obligation to do the best job we can to pass that on and inspire others.”

In addition, through his role as Chair of Earth and Space Sciences for the Earth Science Literacy Initiative and the National Research Council’s “Framework for K-12 Science Education,” Michael has been influential in the crafting of K-12 science education benchmarks that include the new national K-12 Next Generation Science Standards, which are currently revolutionizing the teaching of science in most U.S. primary and secondary schools.

Director of Academic Services, Beth Fisher, says of Michael that he, “brings to his leadership of The Teaching Center a love of teaching, a dedication to student learning, and a creative approach to the collaborative work that we do with faculty, graduate students, and postdocs at Washington University. His commitment is palpable—not only to the mission of The Teaching Center, but also to the idea that our work is essential to the mission of the University and to the improvement of teaching and learning more broadly.”

Reflecting on his new role, Michael notes, “I am very excited to have this opportunity to help lead the Teaching Center in its mission of improving teaching at WashU. It is an exciting time; Education is exploding with evidence-based ideas in many areas of teaching and learning, from fundamental pedagogies to advanced technologies. We don’t have to rely just on our hunches to guess the best ways to increase student understanding. Different courses have different goals for their students, but whatever the course is, in any one of the many schools at WashU, someone has done research on it and the data are available. I see part of my job as connecting the needs of our teachers to that rich body of practical pedagogical knowledge in a variety of different ways that will include workshops, consultations, web resources, and the encouragement of a rich and healthy learning community of interested teachers.”