Plenary 1: Why You Can Pass Tests and Still Fail in the Real World

Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m., McArthur Hall, Auditorium

Why is it that stellar students sometimes fail in the workplace while dropouts succeed? One reason is that most, if not all, of our current assessment practices are inauthentic. Just as the lecture focuses on the delivery of information to students, so does assessment often focus on having students regurgitate that same information back to the instructor. Consequently, assessment fails to focus on the skills that are relevant in life in the 21st century. Assessment has been called the "hidden curriculum" as it is an important driver of students' study habits. Unless we rethink our approach to assessment, it will be very difficult to produce a meaningful change in education.

 Dr. Eric Mazur, Harvard University

Eric Mazur is Dean of Applied Physics and Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University. In addition to his work in nanophotonics, Dr. Mazur is interested in education and science policy. In 1990 he developed Peer Instruction, a method for teaching large lecture classes interactively. Peer Instruction has developed a large following, both nationally and internationally, and has been adopted across many science disciplines. Dr. Mazur has served on numerous committees and councils, has chaired and organized national and international scientific conferences, and presented for the Presidential Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. He serves as consultant to industry in the electronics and telecommunications industry. In 2006 he founded SiOnyx, a company that is commercializing black silicon, a new form of silicon developed in Mazur's laboratory. In 2011 he founded Learning Catalytics, a company that uses data analytics to improve learning in the classroom. Mazur is Chief Academic Advisor for Turning Technologies, a company developing interactive response systems for the education market. He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Panel for Allied Minds, a pre-seed investment company, and on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Lifeboat Foundation, a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements.