The making of a teaching evangelist

Posted on June 23rd, 2016

This article explores how Eric Mazur has evolved his teaching and become a champion of active, student-centred, and problem-based learning. Mazur, who is a professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University, is critical of the use of traditional lectures in higher education. Earlier in his career, he realized that students were not learning key concepts—they were memorizing formulas. He has transformed his teaching since then, favouring approaches where “[students] must actively grapple with the subject matter, whether in small groups, by responding to questions using clickers, or through other exercises.” Mazur also built a brand new course—Applied Physics 50—that emphasizes student motivation and the social dimensions of education. Students work in teams and engage in hands-on problem solving through projects and low-stakes competitions. Mazur, who has delivered more than 1,100 talks about teaching, argues that for students to learn, they must do more than listen. “Learning is not a spectator sport,” he states. Mazur visited UBC in 2013 and spoke about techniques to increase student engagement and learning.