Shifting the focus from “teaching” to helping students learn

March 16, 2010 at 11:42 pm 2 comments

Continuing our discussion about effective teaching (or as my friend Josh Leeger rightly amends, effective communication)…

Eric Mazur‘s engaging talk Confessions of a Converted Lecturer at the  University of Maryland on 11 November 2009. The abstract reads: “I thought I was a good teacher until I discovered my students were just memorizing information rather than learning to understand the material. Who was to blame? The students? The material? I will explain how I came to the agonizing conclusion that the culprit was neither of these. It was my teaching that caused students to fail! I will show how I have adjusted my approach to teaching and how it has improved my students’ performance significantly.”

Via the American Education Research Association list-serv (thanks, Richard Hake!):

That talk is now on YouTube:

The abstract, slides, and references — sometimes obscured in the YouTube talk — are here as a 4 MB pdf.

For other commentary critical of the passive-student lecture — a staple of U.S. higher education — see e.g.:

  • “Scholars at a Lecture” [Hogarth (1822)];
  • “The Lecture System in Teaching Science” [Morrison (1986)] – a MUST-READ all-time classic!;
  • “Science Lectures: A relic of the past? [Mazur (1996)];
  • “The College Lecture, Long Derided, May Be Fading” [Honan (2002)];
  • “Re: The college lecture may be fading” [Hake (2002)];
  • “Mary Burgan’s Defense of Lecturing” [Hake (2007)];
  • “At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard” [Rimer (2009)];
  • “Farewell, Lecture?” [Mazur (2009)].

UPDATE: Lab Out Loud has a fantastic interview with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson on science literacy. (Thanks, Aaron!)


Entry filed under: think. Tags: , , , , , .

The barefoot professor Picture this: Run hard and get dirty

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Josh  |  March 17, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Great post! And great follow-up commentary!

    This does go, again, to communication…what is communication? How does it (naturally) occur, and how can we optimize it?


  • 2. Dr. Sanford Aranoff  |  March 18, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Well, how did you change your teaching? My idea is that teachers and professors need to stress basic principles. We need to understand how students think and build from there using the principles and logic. See “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better” on amazon.


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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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