The Scientific Approach to Teaching: Research as a Basis for Course Design

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

Friday, September 21, 2012, 3:30pm

Spanos Auditorium

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series.

Discussions of teaching — even some publications — abound with anecdotal evidence. Our intuition often supplants a systematic, scientific approach to finding out what works and what doesn't work. Yet, research is increasingly demonstrating that our gut feelings about teaching are often wrong. In this talk I will discuss some research my group has done on gender issues in science courses and on the effectiveness of classroom demonstrations.

About the Speaker

Eric Mazur is the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University and Area Dean of Applied Physics. An internationally recognized scientist, he leads a vigorous research program in optical physics and supervises one of the largest research groups in the Physics Department at Harvard. Dr. Mazur, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Leiden, has made important contributions to spectroscopy, light scattering, the interaction of ultra short laser pulses with materials, and nanophotonics. Dr. Mazur also 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 is author or co-author of 249 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. In addition, he is the founder of SiOnyx, a company that is commercializing black silicon, a new form developed in Mazur's laboratory, and of Learning Catalytics, a company that uses data analytics to improve learning in the classroom.