Understanding or Memorization: Are we teaching the right thing?

Presentation Date: 

Tuesday, October 7, 2003


2003 Speaker Series on Teaching, Learning, and Technology, University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
Dr. Eric Mazur, Professor of Physics at Harvard, will discuss a demonstrably more effective way to teach a traditional lecture course, one which works well in his physics courses and other fields as well. For example, Dr. Mazur's students use hand-held infrared devices to provide answers to questions in class. Students interact in groups and Dr. Mazur can quickly evaluate and respond to questions and problems. Through such technology mediated "peer instruction" students are able to uncover and address the limits of their subject understanding. Through such means, he notes that his courses can better address the central  problem with the traditional lecture -- which is its focus on the transfer of information (to the student) instead of the synthesis of information (by the student). Dr Mazur is also involved in developing a Web-based set of utilities -- the "Interactive Learning Toolkit" -- to help facilitate the implementation of proven pedagogies and allows the instructor to monitor students' progress both during class and outside the classroom.