Publications

    P. Zhang, L. Ding, and E. Mazur. 2017. “Peer Instruction in Introductory Physics: A Method to Bring About Positive Changes in Students’ Attitudes and Beliefs.” Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res., 113, Pp. 010104-1–9. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    This paper analyzes pre-post matched gains in the epistemological views of science students taking the introductory physics course at Beijing Normal University (BNU) in China. In this study we examined the attitudes and beliefs of science majors (n = 441) in four classes, one taught using traditional (lecture) teaching methods, and the other three taught with Peer Instruction (PI). In two of the PI classes, student peer groups were constantly changing throughout the semester, while in the other PI class student groups remained fixed for the duration of the semester. The results of the pre- and posttest using the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey showed that students in traditional lecture settings became significantly more novice-like in their beliefs about physics and learning physics over the course of a semester, a result consistent with what was reported in the literature. However, all three of the classes taught using the PI method improved student attitudes and beliefs about physics and learning physics. In the PI class with fixed peer groups, students exhibited a greater positive shift in attitudes and beliefs than in the other PI class with changing peer groups. The study also looked at gender differences in student learning attitudes. Gender results revealed that female science majors in the PI classes achieved a greater positive shift in attitudes and beliefs after instruction than did male students.
    K. Anne Miller, J. Schell, A. Ho, B. Lukoff, and E. Mazur. 2015. “Response switching and self-efficacy in Peer Instruction classrooms.” Physical Review Special Topics, 11, Pp. –. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    Peer Instruction, a well-known student-centered teaching method, engages students during class through structured, frequent questioning and is often facilitated by classroom response systems. The central feature of any Peer Instruction class is a conceptual question designed to help resolve student misconceptions about subject matter. We provide students two opportunities to answer each question—once after a round of individual reflection and then again after a discussion round with a peer. The second round provides students the choice to “switch” their original response to a different answer. The percentage of right answers typically increases after peer discussion: most students who answer incorrectly in the individual round switch to the correct answer after the peer discussion. However, for any given question there are also students who switch their initially right answer to a wrong answer and students who switch their initially wrong answer to a different wrong answer. In this study, we analyze response switching over one semester of an introductory electricity and magnetism course taught using Peer Instruction at Harvard University. Two key features emerge from our analysis: First, response switching correlates with academic self-efficacy. Students with low self-efficacy switch their responses more than students with high self-efficacy. Second, switching also correlates with the difficulty of the question; students switch to incorrect responses more often when the question is difficult. These findings indicate that instructors may need to provide greater support for difficult questions, such as supplying cues during lectures, increasing times for discussions, or ensuring effective pairing (such as having a student with one right answer in the pair). Additionally, the connection between response switching and self-efficacy motivates interventions to increase student self-efficacy at the beginning of the semester by helping students develop early mastery or to reduce stressful experiences (i.e., high-stakes testing) early in the semester, in the hope that this will improve student learning in Peer Instruction classrooms.
    K. Anne Miller, N. Lasry, B. Lukoff, J. Schell, and E. Mazur. 2014. “Conceptual question response times in Peer Instruction classrooms.” PRST, 10(2), Pp. –. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    Classroom response systems are widely used in interactive teaching environments as a way to engage students by asking them questions. Previous research on the time taken by students to respond to conceptual questions has yielded insights on how students think and change conceptions. We measure the amount of time students take to respond to in- class, conceptual questions [ConcepTests (CTs)] in two introductory physics courses taught using Peer Instruction and use item response theory to determine the difficulty of the CTs. We examine response time differences between correct and incorrect answers both before and after the peer discussion for CTs of varying difficulty. We also determine the relationship between response time and student performance on a standardized test of incoming physics knowledge, precourse self-efficacy, and gender. Our data reveal three results of interest. First, response time for correct answers is significantly faster than for incorrect answers, both before and after peer discussion, especially for easy CTs. Second, students with greater incoming physics knowledge and higher self-efficacy respond faster in both rounds. Third, there is no gender difference in response rate after controlling for incoming physics knowledge scores, although males register significantly more attempts before committing to a final answer than do female students. These results provide insight into effective CT pacing during Peer Instruction. In particular, in order to maintain a pace that keeps everyone engaged, students should not be given too much time to respond. When around 80% of the answers are in, the ratio of correct to incorrect responses rapidly approaches levels indicating random guessing and instructors should close the poll.
    J. Watkins and E. Mazur. 2013. “Retaining students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors.” J. Coll. Sci. Teach., 42, Pp. 36–41. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    In this paper we present results relating undergraduate student retention in STEM majors to the use of Peer Instruction in an introductory physics course at a highly- selective research institution. We compare the percentages of students who switch out of a STEM major after taking a physics course taught using traditional lectures only or one using Peer Instruction, finding that nearly twice the percentage of students switch after the lecture-based course. By examining these results in light of the literature on STEM retention, we propose that providing opportunities for students to think, respond, and interact in class may have a substantial impact on the retention of students in STEM disciplines.
    N. Lasry, J. Watkins, E. Mazur, and A. Ibrahim. 2013. “Response Times to Conceptual Questions.” Am. J. Phys., 81, Pp. 703–706. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    We measured the time taken by students to respond to individual Force Concept Inventory (FCI) questions. We examine response time differences between correct and incorrect answers, both before and after instruction. We also determine the relation between response time and expressed confidence. Our data reveal three results of interest. First, response times are longer for incorrect answers than for correct ones, indicating that distractors are not automatic choices. Second, response times increase after instruction for both correct and incorrect answers, supporting the notion that instruction changes students' approach to conceptual questions. Third, response times are inversely related to students' expressed confidence; the lower their confidence, the longer it takes to respond.
    C. Lindstrøm and J. Schell. 2013. “Leveraging technology to enhance evidence-based pedagogy: A case study of Peer Instruction in Norway”. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    Peer Instruction (PI) is a research-based instructional strategy developed by Eric Mazur at Harvard University in the 1990s. Instructors across the disciplines, in every institutional type, and in classrooms throughout the world have adopted PI. The method relies on classroom response systems (CRSs) – or systems which allow instructors to collect student responses to questions. While PI can be and often is implemented using low-tech CRSs (e.g. flashcards), it is enhanced when paired with higher-tech tools (e.g. clickers). In this paper, we address the following research problem: Moving from flashcards to clickers in PI has advantages, however there is a lack of clarity about the practical aspects of this transition for individual instructors. We pose the following research questions: What is involved in the transition from a low-tech CRS (e.g. flashcards) to a high- tech CRS (e.g. clickers) for the instructor and students in a PI environment? What are student perceptions about the value of using clickers when they have previously used flashcards? What are the instructor perceptions of the value of using clickers when she has previously used flashcards? The purpose of this paper is to address the research problem and questions by presenting a case study of one instructor’s transition from flashcards to clickers in one university classroom. The paper also provides recommendations for instructors wishing to implement clickers to improve ease of implementation. We found that the transition from flashcards to clickers involves primarily familiarizing the instructor and students with the new technology. We also found that both students and the instructor prefer clickers to flashcards. Most importantly, we found that of the pre-service teachers in our sample (N=21) who filled out post- course surveys (n=19), 95% indicated that they intend to use PI, versus more traditional approaches, in their own teaching.** NOTE THIS IS A CORRECTION TO THE ABSTRACT IN THE PUBLISHED PAPER.
    I. Solano Araujo and E. Mazur. 2013. “Instrução pelos colegas e ensino sob medida: uma proposta para o engajamento dos alunos no processo de ensino-aprendizagem de Física (Peer Instruction and Just-in-Time Teaching: engaging students in physics learning).” Caderno Brasileiro de Ensino de Física, 30(2), Pp. 362–384. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    Melhorar a formação profissional e acadêmica dos indivíduos nos mais diversos níveis, passa por repensar o papel das estratégias formais de ensino. Em termos educacionais, pesquisa após pesquisa tem mostrado os problemas de se investir quase exclusivamente na apresentação oral dos conteúdos como estratégia didática. Seja por falta de infraestrutura para implementar novas soluções, inércia do sistema escolar ou mesmo desconhecimento de alternativas viáveis de mudança, essa estratégia quase milenar ainda hoje é onipresente no ambiente escolar. Em sua face mais visível, o chamado ensino tradicional está fortemente associado com a evasão escolar, a aprendizagem mecânica e a desmotivação para aprender, por parte dos estudantes. Diversas são as recomendações abstratas e gerais de cunho pedagógico feitas aos professores para reverter esse quadro. Contudo, poucas são as alternativas concretas apresentadas, em especial no Ensino de Física em nível médio e nas disciplinas básicas de nível superior. Tendo em vista esse cenário, o presente artigo tem como objetivos divulgar as potencialidades do uso combinado de dois métodos de ensino, focados na aprendizagem significativa de conceitos e procedimentos; e também fornecer conselhos práticos para favorecer a implementação deles em sala de aula.
    J. Schell. 2012. “Student-Centered University Learning: Turning Traditional Education Models Upside Down.” In ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America, Fall: Pp. 20–23. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    Teachers teach. Students learn. This is the dominant paradigm of university education in Latin America. But is this age-old model sufficient to prepare students for tomorrow in a rapidly evolving region clamoring for innovation? More and more, educational reformers are emphasizing that no, it is not. However, student-centered teaching methods, such as Peer Instruction, are gaining popularity in Latin American universities as the region seeks to improve the quality of higher education.
    J. Schell. 2012. “How to Transform Learning - With Teaching.” In Leaders of Learners, 5: Pp. 3–5. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    The most powerful tool we have at our disposal in our quest to cultivate effective learning is teaching. This article provides an overview of Peer Instruction, an innovative pedagogy known to significantly improve student learning across various subjects and institutional types. (Article correction - author=Julie Schell, EdD).
    N. Lasry, S. Rosenfield, H. Dedic, A. Dahan, and O. Reshef. 2011. “The puzzling reliability of the Force Concept Inventory.” Am. J. Phys., 79, Pp. 909–. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    The Force Concept Inventory (FCI) has influenced the development of many research-based pedagogies. However, no data exists on the FCI’s internal consistency or test-retest reliability. The FCI was administered twice to one hundred students during the first week of classes in an electricity and magnetism course with no review of mechanics between test administrations. High Kuder–Richardson reliability coefficient values, which estimate the average correlation of scores obtained on all possible halves of the test, suggest strong internal consistency. However, 31% of the responses changed from test to retest, suggesting weak reliability for individual questions. A chi-square analysis shows that change in responses was neither consistent nor completely random. The puzzling conclusion is that although individual FCI responses are not reliable, the FCI total score is highly reliable.
    P. Zhang and E. Mazur. 2010. “Peer-Instruction—哈佛大学物理课程教学新方法.” 中国大学教学, Pp. 69–71. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    Peer-Instruction 教学方法是哈佛大学著名教授 Eric Mazur 创立,使用专门设计的用于 揭示学 生错误概念和引导学生深入探究的概念测试题(ConcepTests),借助计算机投票系统 (Computerized Voting System),组织大班课堂教学,变传统单一的讲授为基于问题的自主 学习和协作探究,有效地改变了传统课 堂教学手段、教学模式。在大班课堂教学中实现学 生自主学习、合作学习、师生互动、生生互动。本文旨 在介绍这种教学方法,阐明其教育 意义和促进学生学习方面的作用,综述了 PI 教学方法的广泛应用和相 关研究结果。
    E. Mazur. 2009. “Farewell, Lecture?” Science, 323, Pp. 50–51. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    Discussions of education are generally predicated on the assumption that we know what education is. I hope to convince you otherwise by recounting some of my own experiences. Download a podcast of this article narrated by Samuel Smith of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Brigham Young University.
    J. Watkins and E. Mazur. 2009. “Using JiTT with Peer Instruction.” In Just in Time Teaching Across the Disciplines, edited by Scott Simkins and Mark Maier, Pp. 39–62. Stylus Publishing. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    eer Instruction (PI) is an interactive teaching technique that promotes classroom interaction to engage students and address difficult aspects of the material (Crouch, Watkins, Fagen, & Mazur, 2007; Crouch & Mazur, 2001; Mazur, 1997). By providing opportunities for students to discuss concepts in class, PI allows students to learn from each other. However, for this method to be most effective, students need to come to class with some basic understand- ing of the material. Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) is an ideal complement to PI, as JiTT structures students' reading before class and provides feedback so the instructor can tailor the PI questions to target student difficulties. Separately, both JiTT and PI provide students with valuable feedback on their learning at different times in the process – JiTT works asynchronously out of class, and PI gives real-time feedback. Together, these methods help students and instructors monitor learning as it happens, strengthening the benefits of this feedback. As this chapter details, the combination of these methods is useful for improving student learning and skill development.
    N. Lasry. 2008. “Clickers or Flashcards: Is There Really a Difference?” Phys. Teacher, 46, Pp. 242–244. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    A growing number of physics teachers are currently turning to instructional technologies such as wireless handheld response systemscolloquially called clickers. Two possible rationales may explain the growing interest in these devices. The first is the presumption that clickers are more effective instructional instruments. The second rationale is somewhat reminiscent of Martin Davis' declaration when purchasing the Oakland Athletics: As men get older, the toys get more expensive. Although personally motivated by both of these rationales, the effectiveness of clickers over inexpensive low-tech flashcards remains questionable. Thus, the first half of this paper presents findings of a classroom study comparing the differences in student learning between a Peer Instruction group using clickers and a Peer Instruction group using flashcards. Having assessed student learning differences, the second half of the paper describes differences in teaching effectiveness between clickers and flashcards.
    N. Lasry, E. Mazur, and J. Watkins. 2008. “Peer Instruction: From Harvard to Community Colleges.” Am. J. Phys., 76, Pp. 1066–1069. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    We compare the effectiveness of a first implementation of peer instruction (PI) in a two-year college with the first PI implementation at a top-tier four-year research institution. We show how effective PI is for students with less background knowledge and what the impact of PI methodology is on student attrition in the course. Results concerning the effectiveness of PI in the college setting replicate earlier findings: PI-taught students demonstrate better conceptual learning and similar problem-solving abilities than traditionally taught students. However, not previously reported are the following two findings: First, although students with more background knowledge benefit most from either type of instruction, PI students with less background knowledge gain as much as students with more background knowledge in traditional instruction. Second, PI methodology is found to decrease student attrition in introductory physics courses at both four-year and two-year institutions.
    J. L. Rosenberg, M. Lorenzo, and E. Mazur. 2006. “Peer Instruction: Making Science Engaging.” In Handbook of College Science Teaching, edited by Joel J. Mintzes and William H. Leonard, Pp. 77–85. NSTA Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    Science is a creative process where the synthesis of new ideas requires discussion and debate. However, the traditional model for teaching assumes that all information presented to students is automatically learned. As a result, most students leave their introductory science courses frustrated and without a solid conceptual understanding. At the same time, instructors feel that students have not lived up to their expectations, yet they cannot identify the problem. Peer Instruction is an interactive approach that was designed to improve the learning process. This approach provides students with greater opportunity for synthesizing the concepts while instructors get timely feedback that can help focus the instruction on the points that are the most difficult for the students. Peer Instruction is flexible and easy to use on its own or in conjunction with other teaching methods. This chapter discusses the motivation for using Peer Instruction and the mechanics of implementing it in the classroom.
    A. Feder, Y. Tabe, and E. Mazur. 1997. “Orientational Fluctuations in a Two-Dimensional Smectic-C Liquid Crystal with Variable Density.” Phys. Rev. Lett., 79, Pp. 1682–1685. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    We studied orientational fluctuations in a smectic-C Langmuir monolayer. Our measurements of orientational correlations are in excellent agreement with theoretical predictions. In addition, we present the first measurements of orientational elasticity and viscosity in a two-dimensional system whose density can be varied. The orientational viscosity strongly depends on temperature and density, changing by more than an order of magnitude with a 2.5% increase in temperature or a 20% change in density. The orientational elasticity is only weakly dependent on temperature and density.
    E. Mazur. 1997. Peer Instruction: A User's Manual, Pp. 253. Prentice Hall. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    An instructor's resource book, developed with funds from the National Science Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust, that presents an entirely new approach to teaching introductory physics, complete with a step-by-step guide for converting conventional lectures to a more interactive format and a ready-to-use set of classroom materials in print and on disk. FROM THE BACK COVER: Eric Mazur is Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics and Professor of Physics at Harvard University. He has taught introductory physics at Harvard since 1984. In addition to leading a research program in optical physics, Mazur maintains an active interest in educational innovation. In 1991, Eric Mazur developed Peer Instruction, a simple yet effective method for teaching science. His approach involves students in the teaching process, making physics significantly more accessible to them. His technique has been highly successful and numerous instructors are already using Mazur's approach in their classes. Many instructors have pointed out the benefits of teaching by questioning over the more traditional approach of teaching by telling. Here, at last, is a book that not only explains how to teach by questioning but also provides all the necessary tools to implement this new approach with a mimimum of effort.