Curated by Beth Kanter
Lecturing was invented as a way to share information in a time before books were widely available. Now, there are better approaches.
Rather than teaching by telling, he teaches by questioning.
Here's how he does it:
Before each class, students are assigned reading in the textbook. Pretty standard for a lecture class, but if you talk to college students you'll find that many of them don't bother with the reading ahead of time.
They come to class to figure out what information the professor thinks is important, then they go to the textbook to read up on what they didn't understand.
"In my approach I've inverted that," says Mazur.
He expects students to familiarize themselves with the information before hand so that class time can be spent helping them understand what the information means.
To make sure his students are prepared, Mazur has set up a web-based monitoring system where everyone has to submit answers to questions about the reading prior to coming to class. The last question asks students to tell Mazur what confused them. He uses their answers to prepare a set of multiple-choice questions he uses during class.
Mazur begins class by giving a brief explanation of a concept he wants students to understand. Then he asks one of the multiple-choice questions. Students get a minute to think about the question on their own and then answer it using a mobile device that sends their answers to Mazur's laptop.
Next, he asks the students to turn to the person sitting next to them and talk about the question. The class typically erupts in a cacophony of voices, as it did that first time he told students to talk to each other because he couldn't figure out what else to do.
Once the students have discussed the question for a few minutes, Mazur instructs them to answer the question again.