Had to take a break from session two at #elearns (eLearning Strategies Symposium) in Costa Mesa right now.
Dr. Eric Mazur (@eric_mazur) was our opening keynote this morning. He’s a physics professor at Harvard sharing how his pedagogy has evolved over time, Confessions of a Converted Lecturer.
Dr. Mazur started with typical lecture style problems. Disengaged students, students reading the book from which the professor lectures, professors providing lecture notes which students just heard for an hour… redundancies that do not engage the mind. All the while Dr. Mazur was confident he was a good teacher–good scores on exams, high marks at semester’s end, no questions from students when he paused mid lecture. But were they really learning?
Without rewriting the keynote (poor pedagogy), the brilliant hook was as Dr. Mazur took us through his revamped approach: question, think, poll, discuss, repoll, explanation (roughly)
Dr. Mazur began to lecture us on thermal dynamics. Then we were presented with a question–a diagram of a metal plate with a hole it in. If it is heated, what happens to the diameter of the hole? Three options–increases, stays the same or decreases?
We, as he does with his students, needed to think, quietly, without benefit of discussion, just engaging our own mind with the question and material presented. Then we chose our answers. The think time took no more than 2 minutes. Next step: discussion. We found a neighbor with a different idea to discussion the question and share our answers, trying to persuade on another that our answer is correct.
Let me pause here. A ballroom full of educators at 8:50am discussing thermal dynamics! Good grief! Who woulda thunk it!?!?
A peek across our table of amazing #petk12 folks revealed some hand holding… what is going on?!?!? They were discussing and modeling the atoms’ movement as the metal heated up. Atoms are connected, hence the hand holding. As they heat, where do they go? Away from each other. blah blah blah
Again, we were talking, modeling, discussing thermal dynamics!!!!!! Dr. Mazur had illustrated the ultimate hook! The topic is irrelevant because learning is engaging. We could feel the synapse’s firing, begin to integrate new ideas and learning with our original thoughts, and use the examples from Dr. Bazur’s mini lecture to validate our explanations.
We were totally hooked! And he knew it. “I’m not really here to lecture you on thermal dynamics; we’re talking pedagogy. The answer doesn’t really matter.” I swear, the entire ballroom groaned. Dr. Mazur continued, “You’re emotionally connected to your learning, you’re invested and you want to know the answer.”
It was brilliant. And my briefer than brief summary may not do justice to the art of this hook, but as a person who has sat through a few snoozy keynotes, it was refreshing to be surprised by this Harvard professor. His talk was clear–Stop Lecturing. But this group participation illustration absolutely hit the nail on the head.
Thank you #elearns . Great choice!
Oh by the way, the hole expands. 😉