04.08.2019 • 4 minutes
In this article, you will find:
That is what award-winning Prof. Eric Mazur from Harvard University has been advocating since the early nineties. Mazur started teaching physics at Harvard in a most traditional setting. He was convinced he was very successful at his job, and indeed, his students’ feedback was excellent.
All was good until the day he found a test designed by Prof. David Hestenes aimed at evaluating the conceptual understanding of the Newtonian force, a fundamental piece of knowledge when studying physics.
To his horror, Mazur realized that, according to this test, his students had learned almost nothing. Yes, they were certainly able to solve complicated exercises with sophisticated math, but they were unfit to transfer their apparent knowledge into a different context. Moreover, these conceptual questions are supposed to be solved after a few minutes at most, and certainly do not require pages of calculations. He was discouraged, to say the least.
Later on, however, he witnessed a sort of miracle, almost by accident. After having spent half an hour explaining a concept to no avail, he took a break and let the students discuss the subject amongst themselves. Chaos ensued in the Harvard auditorium: people left their desk and migrated to other areas, half of them trying to convince the others, the other half listening and debating them. But the most incredible fact is that after only a few minutes, the students serenely returned to their seats. Then, one of them told Prof. Mazur: "We’ve got this, you can move on".
This was probably the moment the Peer Instruction method was born. Together with evidence-based considerations about the inefficacy of traditional lectures, Mazur developed the following teaching method:
Eric Mazur (Confessions of a converted lecturer, Youtube)
Besides boosting the performance of the students, this method has several other advantages:
Information is now easily accessible to students: classroom-taught lessons can no longer be used solely to transmit this information. To allow your students to get the most out of these class sessions, always remember to encourage active participation in the classroom!
For more information:
Florian is a Data Scientist and editor at Wooclap.
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