Centre for Teaching and Learning

Centre for Teaching and Learning
Centre for Teaching and Learning

Memorizing or Understanding: Are we teaching the right thing?

with Dr. Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, and Area Dean of Applied Physics, Harvard University
Co-sponsored by the Department of Physics and the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Queen's

This session was video recorded on Friday, November 11, 2011, Stirling Hall, Theatre D, 1:30pm - 2:30 pm

PowerPoint Slides (PDF, 5.1MB)

Session Description

Education is more than just transfer of information, yet that is what is mostly done in large introductory courses -- instructors present material (even though this material might be readily available in printed form) and for students the main purpose of lectures is to take down as many notes as they can. Few students have the ability, motivation, and discipline to synthesize all the information delivered to them. Yet synthesis is perhaps the most important -- and most elusive -- aspect of education. I will show how shifting the focus in lectures from delivering information to synthesizing information greatly improves the learning that takes place in the classroom.

Eric Mazur PhotoAbout the Presenter

Eric Mazur is the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University and Area Dean of Applied Physics. An internationally recognized scientist and researcher, he leads a vigorous research program in optical physics and supervises one of the largest research groups in the Physics Department at Harvard University.

After obtaining a Ph.D. degree in experimental physics at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands in 1981, Dr. Mazur came to Harvard University in 1982. In 1984 he joined the faculty and obtained tenure six years later. Dr. Mazur has made important contributions to spectroscopy, light scattering, the interaction of ultrashort laser pulses with materials, and nanophotonics.

Dr. Mazur is author or co-author of 242 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.