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The Tyranny of the Lecture

Date: Thursday April 11, 2013

For additional workshop details, please click here.


Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and Area Dean of Applied Physics, Harvard University

Prof.Mazur’s slides for this talk are found on his website. Click here and search for ‘University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA on 12 April 2013’

Most—if not all—of the important skills in our life are acquired outside the traditional classroom setting. Yet we continue to teach using lectures where students passively take down information. Instead, we should really focus on the assimilation of that information and shift the focus from teaching to helping students learn. Over the past 20 years, instructors world-wide have begun to adopt Peer Instruction to get students to think in class. With the advent of new technology the process can be significantly improved. A new data-analytics driven audience response system does away with multiple choice questions and helps instructors design better questions, manage time and process flow, and optimizes the discussions in the classroom.

Sponsored by the Page-Barbour Lecture Series and co-hosted by the Deaprtments of Chemistry and Physics and the Teaching Resource Center

Peer Instruction (hands-on workshop)

Prof.Mazur’s slides for this talk are found on his website. Click here and search for ‘University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA on 12 April 2013’

The basic goals of Peer Instruction are to encourage and make use of student interaction during lectures, while focusing students’ attention on underlying concepts and techniques. The method has been assessed in many studies using standardized, diagnostic tests and shown to be considerably more effective than the conventional lecture approach to teaching. Peer Instruction is now used in a wide range of science and math courses at the college and secondary level. In this 2-3 hour long workshop, participants will learn about Peer Instruction, serve as the “class” in which Peer Instruction is demonstrated, discuss several models for implementing the technique into the classroom, and learn about available teaching resources.

In order to get the most benefit out of the workshop on Peer Instruction, Eric asks that you complete the following brief assignments before coming to the workshop.

  1. If you do not plan to attend Eric’s talk on the Tyranny of the Lecture on April 11, please either read this paper or watch this video (1h20m).
  2. Ask yourself in which of the courses you are (or will be) teaching you could implement Peer Instruction. If you were to implement PI, what are the most burning questions you have about implementation? Write those questions down and bring them to the workshop so Eric can address them.
  3. During the workshop, Eric will be using Learning Catalytics, an assessment platform that uses consumer devices, and he is asking you to please bring a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or any device that can access the web. Because of limited time, he asks that you create a Learning Catalytics instructor account prior to the session. To do so:

    • Point your browser to
    • Click ‘Create instructor account’ and fill out the resulting form.

Logging in with your instructor account on a mobile device will automatically place you into student mode so that you can participate in the demo as a “student”; if you bring a laptop to the demo, then click the “Student view” button to switch to student mode after logging in.

After the talk, you’ll have full access to use Learning Catalytics as an instructor—you’ll be able to create questions, build modules, and test things out in student mode. When you are ready to try things out with your students, you can generate a set of 30-day trial student licenses to use in class.

Sponsored by the Page-Barbour Lecture Series and the Teaching Resource Center and co-hosted by the Departments of Chemistry and Physics

Professor Eric Mazur is an internationally recognized scientist and researcher, he leads a vigorous research program in optical physics and supervises one of the largest research groups in the Physics Department at Harvard University.

After obtaining a Ph.D. degree in experimental physics at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands in 1981, Dr. Mazur came to Harvard University in 1982. In 1984 he joined the faculty and obtained tenure six years later. Dr. Mazur has made important contributions to spectroscopy, light scattering, the interaction of ultrashort laser pulses with materials, and nanophotonics.

In 1988 he was awarded a Presidential Young Investigator Award. He is Fellow of the Optical Society of America and Fellow of the American Physical Society, and has been named APS Centennial Lecturer during the Society’s centennial year. In 2007 Mazur was appointed Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar. In 2008 Mazur received the Esther Hoffman Beller award from the Optical Society of America and the Millikan Medal from the American Association of Physics Teachers. In 2010 he was elected Director at Large for the Optical Society of America. Dr. Mazur is a Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of the Netherlands. He is honorary professor at the Instute of Semiconductor Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and has held appointments as Visiting Professor or Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Leuven in Belgium, National Taiwan University in Taiwan, Carnegie Mellon University, and Hong Kong University.

In addition to his work in optical physics, Dr. Mazur is interested in education, science policy, outreach, and the public perception of science. He believes that better science education for all — not just science majors — is vital for continued scientific progress. To this end, Dr. Mazur devotes part of his research group’s effort to education research and finding verifiable ways to improve science education. In 1990 he began developing Peer Instruction a method for teaching large lecture classes interactively. Dr. Mazur’s teaching method has developed a large following, both nationally and internationally, and has been adopted across many science disciplines.

Dr. Mazur has served on numerous committees and councils, including advisory and visiting committees for the National Science Foundation, has chaired and organized national and international scientific conferences, and presented for the Presidential Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. He serves as consultant to industry in the electronics and telecommunications industry. In 2006 he founded SiOnyx, a company that is commercializing black silicon, a new form of silicon developed in Mazur’s laboratory. Mazur is currently Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board for SiOnyx. In 2011 he founded Learning Catalytics, a company that uses data analytics to improve learing in the classroom. Mazur is Chief Academic Advisor for Turning Technologies, a company developing interactive response systems for the education market. He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Panel for Allied Minds, a pre-seed investment company creating partnerships with key universities to fund corporate spin-outs in early stage technology companies, and on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Lifeboat Foundation, a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements.

Dr. Mazur is author or co-author of 252 scientific publications and 12 patents. He has also written on education and is the author of Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual (Prentice Hall, 1997), a book that explains how to teach large lecture classes interactively. In 2006 he helped produce the award-winning DVD Interactive Teaching.

For additional details, and to Register, please click here.

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