Dr. Eric Mazur – Active Learning Speech @ Auburn University’s EASL Classroom

*Class Chattering You all should be very very grateful and be thankful that Dr. Eric Mazur is here and graciously allowed you guys to put off your exam by a couple of days. *Cheering and Clapping from audience He is the Balkanski? “Balkanski” Balkanski professor of applied physics? Physics and applied Physics Physics and Applied and I keep getting it wrong at Harvard University so he is kind of a big deal, I would say. So he is one of the few faculty members that I can say pioneered this type of learning and he is still very very reasearch active. So both hats simultaneously someone rare in higher academia who tries to connect with students On both the lower level and the highest level. So I an very very grateful to sit and be a student again. Feel free to as he goes ask questions. It is a physic’s talk I guess? No, its about learning and more learning than anything else so try to make use of this day. Thank you that was very nice. I didn’t know I was interfering with your exam he didn’t tell me that before hand. Actually, this afternoon I’ll be talking about exams and assessment so if you’re interested then.. Is it going in and out? I really since I am giving four talks today I want to use the microphone to save my my voice. Let me put it up a little bit, okay? Anyways so if you want to hear more about my views of exams Shall I just ditch the microphone? I think I’ll ditch it right now. The problem is it’s hard to project on both sides so if you want to know more about my views on examinations and studying and assessment I’ll be talking about that and what time? one o’clock one o’clock and I think I would love for some of you to be there because I would love to hear your views on assessment. I only started to think about that recently that the title of the talk by the way is assessment the silent killer of learning. I meant to be provocative there anyway a few years ago I started to I took a year off to completely rethink my approach to teaching. I already you know going back 25 years or such to change my approach to teaching so if you’ve ever been an interactive lecture where clickers have been used if you like it you can attribute it to me if you don’t like it was badly implemented but say-anyways so I took a year off to basically rethink my approach to teaching from the ground up and during that year I visited the number of universities to see what innovative approaches to teaching have been developed around the world. I also read a lot of books about teaching and one book had a particularly big impact. This book here was the title Who Owns the Learning written by friend of mine Alan November who of who is actually an educational consultant for K through 12 education. I don’t usually like reading education books they’re not the most exciting books to read but I told him that I would write a little blurb for the back cover. So I got a manuscript from the publisher before the publication and I carried it in my briefcase for many many months trying to put off reading it until I was on a flight where all of my devices had run out of batteries I’d read the in-flight magazine any newspaper I could get my hands on I had no choice. It was the only other thing left to do during this long transpacific flight. I opened the manuscript and in the forward the first sentence grabbed me it said have you ever experience something that made you completely reconsider the essence of something you thought was true? I was hooked he recalls that in that forward something that happened to him in the early 80s when he was a high school teacher at Lexington high school which is an affluent suburb west of Boston. Lexington high school was one of the first schools to have a computer classroom remember 1980s that’s when PC’s sort of came on the market so computer classroom was something really new and he was in charge of that computer classroom. On a Sunday morning he gets a phone call from the Lexington Police Department. There had been a break-in in the computer classroom. Would he please come to the school? He gets dressed drives the 40 minutes from his home in Marblehead to Lexington arrives at the school parks his car and notice’s that none of the windows of the computer classroom are broken he goes inside the school goes to the computer classroom the door has not been forced open he opens of door looks inside all of the computers are still there. There is just one strange thing there is a student sitting at one of the computers so he goes over to the student and says “Gary what are you doing here?” and Gary looks up at him and says I want to learn how to program the computer and that is when he realized that if somebody wants to learn they will do anything. They will break the law you can’t stop them right and look at small children 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 maybe until nine years old or something that they are you know sponges for knowledge they don’t learn because we make them suffer or we would make them do things they don’t want to they learn because they want to learn. We are all born with this innate curiosity the desired to learn so why is it that education does such a phenomenal job turning that innate drive to learn off? That really made me think that how can I create an environment where students learn not because I tell them to learn they learn because they want to learn? Now that’s one thing with computer programming right we know that computers can be addictive. What about my subject physics? Which you know most students already hate before even setting foot into my classroom. So the idea I came up with was to create a Trojan horse and a Trojan horse who basically hide the physics the Trojan horse that I dreamed up was a combination of two things. One team based learning and the other project based learning get the students to work on projects that are really exciting that are fun! That requires them to learn the physics in other words they learn the physics because it’s the only way to do the project but the project itself is fun. Which is the way we learn all the things around us. Right? I mean think back of time that you were in elementary school and kindergarten I mean learning was not the type of feeling it did not evoke the type of feelings that cramming for an exam for example now will evoke and a team -based approach has two other huge benefits one is you develop a social responsibility for learning if you don’t stay on top of your material you’re letting your team down you’re not letting Prof.Missouri town know you’re letting the team down so rather than me being the bad guy you know there is sort of this social pressure to stay on top of the material you are doing it together not alone with responsibility towards the teacher so if you look into my class now you see something that’s actually pretty similar to what you see here except that we don’t have all the technology you have here we do not have screens around the wall I am going to tell you a little bit about the design of the course and then I will talk about the approach and lastly I’ll talk about the results and you know this is a I am giving you the short version of longer talk and I didn’t didn’t get a chance to sort of my slides last night so I’ll have to skip a few a few parts Now we started it in in physics and I’m sure it’s no different here how many of you have taken a physics course? Most of you are or taking one and at Harvard just as just about any other universities we had four tracks which were all modeled after the track that was aimed at the major so that the course of physics majors was watered down a little bit for the engineering majors which was watered down more for the life science majors which was watered down a little bit more for everybody else but the basic idea behind all of those courses was the course for majors and of course the course for majors works no matter what you do because most physics major have already develop that ownership of learning they are taking the course because they want to become successful in in physics but to assume that that will work for chemistry, engineering majors, life science majors is of course a fallacy. So it was clear to me that this approach did not satisfy the needs of the non- majors and anything that we do to benefit the non- majors will also benefit the majors which is why you know why not help them to? So it became clear for me that I first had to align the goals to what the students needs were rather than thinking you know lets just take this physics majors course that has not evolved in the past 100 years and basically watered it down the second thing was to change the approach to teaching to a project -based approach and the last one was to change the learning space get away from amphitheater which you know that type of space was never designed as a learning space Who designed the amphitheater? The ancient Greek right why did they develop that space what was the reason? Theater, music, performances right so that everybody could hear and everybody could see the performance that Did the Greek ever teach in an amphitheater? Never if you look at at the administration of the school of Athens you see people walking around in pairs they are talking, exchanging ideas it’s not just you know a spectator sport somewhere in the Middle Ages and Europe we adopted the performance space as a learning space and I think that’s where a lot of things went wrong of course a lot of professes like to perform so that’s why it may be that the method survived for that that long time so I started by setting goals writing the standard approach to teaching rather than thinking about the desired outcome you think about the content in this course we are going to cover topic A topic B topic C topic D and then the professor starts covering topic a topic b topic c topic d and then after awhile starts thinking hmm how am I going to assess that students have actually learned something? So the exam is an afterthought. A much better approach would be to use backward design lets ask ourselves what do we want the students to be able to do after taking this course maybe not even immediately after but five years after taking the course makes a lot of sense doesn’t it think about the outputs rather than the input in fact I find that most of my colleagues they all nod yes but then when it comes down to actually writing desired outcomes it’s very hard for that to think about it for a while now they think after taking this course you will be able to understand topic A topic B topic C and topic D and then of course your back at square at zero I’ll talk a bit more about this in my talk this this afternoon so then I asked myself what am I going to accept as evidence that I’ve actually accomplished these outcomes and lastly what instructional approach can I put in place to maximize these outcomes so I did a long survey of my my colleagues and I came up with three lists which I am not going to show you but if any of you are interested in seeing them I’m happy to share them one was a set of competencies like design, team work, communication, ethics things that are so important in your later career and they are actually never directly addressed by any of the courses you take but they are so important they should be embedded in each and every course you take in addition to these competencies which are the highest level is a list of course goals but slightly longer list and then there’s a much more detailed content splits of content specific goals be able to apply Newton ‘s laws to do this or that be able to you know apply kinematics to solve problems with this or that kind again I’m not going bother you with details because this is not a talk about physics it is really as you heard about learning The nect this was to get rid of this amphitheater because look at this picture you can see right away that a space like that is focused on information transfer the professor in front of the class delivering information to the audience it’s centered on the faculty not on the students in any room such as this you are the important person not the professor you want to learn we are there to help you learn so it should not be centered on us it should be centered on you so we built a new classroom very much like this one this is a picture it was an old library that was converted which has windows on three sides you see two sides you see the one side that doesn’t have windows and one of the sides have windows and I created a problem because we couldn’t put whiteboards and screens on the walls like you have so all we have are mobile boards very much like this one and we often move them between between the tables so to form cubicles so that each team gets its own new cubicle so even if you wanted to lecture there as a professor you can’t because half of the students or even more cannot see you your hidden behind aboard as you can see on the picture there There’s just no way you can lecture in that space it will be difficult for me even to give a talk like this in that space with these whiteboards of course you could move them all to the side but then you’re covering the white boards no technologies you see no screens whether there is a screen if I absolutely need to project something but the idea is we don’t want people to look away from their teams it also makes a large class smaller capacity and that’s room right now is 70 but we have a number of these classes and we can link them but I can start a class in one of the space since it’s mostly student centered activities students do not even notice whether I’m there or not so again start in one and you know have my voice by a the speaker in the other one and then walk to the other classroom so we can sort of scale in units of 70 or maybe even 100 were limited basically to occupancy of 84 because of the fire code but I think in terms of surface area we could probably put more people you look at this picture and it’s focused on the interaction right now you you’re in mobile chairs so you can turn around and you’re all facing me but that would be really unusual I’m sure that if I were to come here on a random day you’re facing each other and looking at each other rather than looking at the instructor. Lets talk about the approach in terms of the approach I decided to use the flipped classroom model which I pioneered 24 years ago although modified version of that what is the flip classroom model? Well in a standard approach you get the first exposure to the material in the class and then you go home and while doing homework and pouring over your notes you try to develop a deeper understanding of the material that was introduced in class think about that for a moment now that we live in the information age isn’t that almost insulting right if you ask what is the hardest part between these two steps is the first exposure the hard part or is it developing a deeper understanding part by I think we’d all agree it’s that second step not the first step so our professors that includes me by the way should really be focusing on that second step not on the first step you can read you can watch something online why watch it in the classroom it’s a waste of your time it will be much better if you did that first exposure before coming to class so that in class the professors can be there to help you develop a better understanding so I decided there would be no lectures at all none, zero me talking like this to you I’m very happy that I’m getting the opportunity to talk to you because I don’t get to do that in my own institution anymore so and I love lecturing so thank you the other thing is I decided no exams I think it was Einstein who once said education is what is left after all that is learned is forgotten Just think about it when you cram for an exam you pass the exam a week later you forget. Why? why even study right? is that the right way to actually learn? things we all agree I hear a lot of very important skills like tying your shoelaces putting your fork in your mouth you name it without lectures without exams shouldn’t that be the way we learn everything rather than studying for the exam why don’t we study to learn an ideal world those two things are the same but as you well know and I think most people teach also know people and up cramming to pass the exam cramming to get the grade more about that in my talk at one o’clock and then not really learning any valuable skills so there are three major components to this to discourse one is the information transfer which takes place out of class how do we do that information transfer secondly there are the in class activities and thirdly the projects I’m going to talk about those three now Let’s start with the information transfer one way will be to film me giving a standard lecture and then have people watch those lectures online but the problem I wish I had more time to talk about that but I don’t and there’s ample evidence showing that right now that when you listen to somebody speak there is not an opportunity for you to actually think See our brains are not wired to multitask we either listen or we think have you ever had somebody in one of the classes you’ve taken here or anywhere else raise his or her hand and said professor. could you please be quiet for 10 min.I need to think it’s never happened in my teaching career to tell you either listen or you think right because if you think if you’re hmm I don’t understand this your mind wanders and you’re no longer by the time your mind comes back to to listening you’ve lost part of the information right so when when you listen to somebody online you could of course hit the pause button but very few people do that actually they want to get through this lecture as quickly as possible with reading you regulate the flow of information right if you’re reading a book and you think hmm I don’t understand something you know you stop reading and then you can start again when your mind is ready to take in new information so you can regulate this flow so that is why I decided not to use video but to use a social document annotation system so my students get the book in electronic format and if they have a question about something they can drag a rectangle highlight the text and type in a question so for example here for that highlighted piece of text once the students says yes this is where I am confused from the first paragraph blah blah blah blah blah than a day later another student student two says maybe they’re trying to say that there is blah blah blah and so on in response to this other student and then soon three pictures in I agree that the motion is nonobvious answer force student two comes back in all the answers to discussion kind of addressed my question above the students are having this asynchronous discussion helping each either understand the text electronically so even though there in separate rooms in a separate instances in time to help each other understand the more difficult parts in the text in the two semesters we got 30,000 annotations from a class of 70 students 30,000 annotations which provide an incredible amount of information more than any human being could of course parse I look at them and I can see the hotspots I can see a graphical representation of where the students struggled the most in the text so that I can design what happens in classroom to focus on the parts that the students have difficulty with so what about in class well in class we use a blend of best practices that I discovered while going around the world I decided also that we would not meet two times an hour and a half or 3 x 1 hour in class and then have another discussion section and another laboratory no we’d fold it all together and meet twice a week for three hours my normal classes I don’t know butabout your science classes but you have lecture and then you have the discussion section and then you have a lab in each time you go home you do something else and you come back and often these components in your mind and in reality are not really well integrated there’s the lab which was different thing from the lecture maybe there are some connections here and there but they usually tenuous and there is a discussion section which my focus on on problem solving why half that why not have two big blocks you get into the physics mode for three hours and we do a lot of activities during that those three two three-hour three-hour periods so this that that the different activities are listed here like estimation reflection and so on and I will discuss them in a moment in a little bit more detail the activities and there on the screen there and color-coded basically go from developing conceptual understanding to mastery and two self-assessment of how much you know as a student so here you see the schedule color-coded so this is class meeting one and here is class meeting two class meeting three and this whole block is three-hour so one and a half hours is spent is spent on this dark blue one which is learning catalytics and then another hour and a half on a tutorial and so I basically put these blocks in of activities and there to fill this three hours and there three months of the term this is the that the first month here which ends with the project fair where the students display their display their projects and then the next. Period is another month and then another month there are three in each semester for total of six project in the entire year two thirds of the time is spend on these activities their scaffold that right so you learn a little bit and then you learn more and they reinforce one another is not just going from 0 to 100%in one step because that’s not how you learn you keep revisiting things in different contexts and then one third of the time is left unguided in fact not on disk while on class 17 you see is completely white this is time for the students to work on their projects it might be in the room it might be in a machine shop when they are building things it might be outside whichever they want the can come to the classroom so that they can talk to us about problems with their with their project and then of course is the big project day the fair which is usually public events we hold that in that space were many other students can see it this is publicity for the course alright I see all of these interesting projects what class is that I want take the class next year Okay so lets now talk briefly about the different activities one is learning catalytics which some of you may have encountered some of your classes I don’t know basically the goal is to develop conceptual understanding and to do that by questioning right I started developing the instruction 24 years ago and shortly afterwards the clicker was invented to support that method of interactive teaching ask a question how students talk to each other I re-answer the question but the problem with that is the multiple choice aspect I never like that so I developed learning catalytics which some of you may have used in some courses the notes use on campus here to avoid multiple-choice questions so here is the question that deals with a light gray this this thing lying here that hits two mirrors that are at right angle and the question is after bouncing off the two mirrors in which direction does the light travel I had this in my book that I wrote in 1997 about the instruction but the only way I could ask it then was a multiple-choice question so I put the correct answer straight back because that is the only question I is an answer I is a physicist could come up with but then what do you put as plausible wrong choices there in my mind doesn’t really help very much because I suffer from what my colleague Stephen Pinker calls the curse of knowledge I can think about it a right way but I don’t know what a plausible wrong way is that a student would think about it so I just put some random things in my book but in learn catalytics I can just have students draw the direction so on their smart phones or tablets or laptops they draw an arrow and on my screen which is in the background I can see all of the arrows that the class draws and as you can see a very large proportion thinks they’re going below the horizontal I’m not here to teach physics but you can very easily show with the law of reflection and some trigonometry that that has to go straight back as indicated by those green arrows then I tell my students now work on it with your team the teams are five students we have six chairs exactly like you have but we leave one empty for the staff so that I can go to a table and I can actually sit down so that I’m not talking down to the student I become part of the of the of the team I think that’s very important so we we have like you tables that have the six chairs but one is always empty thats for whoever is there from the staff so that we don’t come and you know talk down to the students because then the students lookup and they you know take it the instructor is the authority I want to be one of them okay so they talk to each other they go to the board they do make some drawings and then they re-answer and you can see that after talking to each other far fewer students choose the incorrect answer not multiple-choice so this is probably the most traditional part of this class which I do in these dark blue colored ares Then this other time is spent on tutorials the idea there is to act to address document misconceptions that have been found in research on in physics education so as students work on these worksheets are these worksheets are are are meant to work on an elicit confront resolve cycle you elicit the misconception you allowed the students to make that mistake that the misconception many students have then you confront them through a series of questions with the inconsistency in that thinking and then help resolve it alright so rather then ignoring the misconception you actually listen to it and then and and help resolve it so during the time the students are working on this worksheet in with their team and we basically walk from table to table guiding them along another one is an estimation activity I don’t know how many courses here do this but I know that at my institution very few courses actually train students in estimating quantities it’s so important right that you can get a feel for things before diving into the equations the equations are handy later on but its so useful if you could just you know get a feel for quantities involved what is the total amount of energy stored in a 9 V battery you know how much energy do you as a human being or power are you capable of generating as a human being you can Google that but wouldn’t it be great if you could think about this and come up with an order of magnitude and have confidence in that wouldn’t make you such a better person wouldn’t it you feel just good about your own your own abilities and and and and your own reasoning skills well the only way to be able to do that is to try it out and to actually train you in doing that so we have an estimated activity were basically the goal is to help develop these qualitative reasoning skills rather than quantitative reasoning skills so we give each team a piece of paper that has five or six questions like for example estimate the amount of charge generated by connecting an AA battery two large capacitor Now most students even at Harvard University would panic when you see a question like that what is a large capacitor? you’re not giving me a value estimate what kind of capacitors we can make and take it from there and we don’t give any credit for this there’s a lot of the things have no credit at all but we turn it into a team competition the first team that gets the five or six orders of magnitude right wins They don’t win anything but they win you have no idea what that does okay there is where the team spirit so the students you would jump into this and of course you can Google a lot of these a lot of these values that’s fine but you’re cheating yourself so you know and since there’s no credit or nothing winning we tell people you know try not to Google things but to actually use your brain because the big reward here is not points you get the big reward is that you learn how to use that precious gray matter in your skull it’s so liberating it’s so exciting so this actually always create an incredible amount of buzz in and in the classroom we do that then half an hour to estimate the five or six quantities then we have an experimental design activity since we have no lab we have to train them to have those experimental skills for example one of the projects is building a Rube Goldberg machine and then the students have to measure all the momentum and energy transformations that happened in the six steps of this rube goldberg machine that they designed now you could go to a lab physics lab and you’ll see cars going on low friction tracks something that you will encounter daily in your life later on that was meant sarcastically by the way up right me you see these low friction cars with four sensors and so on but the real world is much more messy I’m sorry but there is friction in the real world and and and and it’s much more complicated and there are no four sensors and Rube Goldberg machines so they have to learn the skills to take measurements on something that is in the real world so we use their laptops or smart phones to take videos and then they learn how to do video tracking and get the data out of the video so we for example several experiment activity ‘s design activities that are focused on teaching those skills of video tracking so they might get a graph of a motion then they have to do use stop animation software to make a movie of it then they have to import the movie video tracking and try to get the original graph back out this teaches visual representations of motion and also this skill of analyzing motion and getting data out of it or for another project to have to learn to build musical instruments from recycled parts and they have to determine things like they Q factor or the harmonic spectrum the tuning stability of their instrument and so on now how do you do that with forces forces thats all nice and handy dandy but but but with an instrument you make from recycled parts its not that obvious right so we teach them how to use audacity which is a piece of software that does analysis of soundwave so in the classroom they may do this was a tuning fork and some some very simple nice instruments but they learn the skills that they will need to then later applied to their much more messy real world instrument that the homework it is there but the homework is very different from standard approaches to doing homework one is we want students to develop problem-solving skills but also to develop something else which is really important for all of you you know I know that you’re freshman you’re at the beginning of your career here so this is the right time to think about it it’s something that psychologists call meta-cognitive skills meta-cognitive skills is the ability to assess your own learning to evaluate your own learning right rather than waiting until somebody else assesses and give you your grade which might not be the best measure of your actual learning why is that so important that so important because when you get your diploma in 3 1/2 years here when these professors that I hear this room hand you your diploma that is not when learning stops you might go on to graduate school and get another diploma but even then when you get that diploma that is not when learning stops that’s when learning really starts trust me living is learning soon as you stop learning know there is no living anymore you continue and then you’re on your own your professors will no longer be there to hold your hands tell you what to do you need to assess your all you need to evaluate your own learning you need to know what to do so learning how to evaluate your learning is probably the most important and skill you can get out of college most important skill unfortunately there is very little opportunity for students in a traditional environment to develop that skill because the assessment is always done by faculty members so we give from a sense that there are very similar standards promises except the approach is very different there are two phases one is solving the problems at home individual we tell the students do not work together which is the opposite of was most of the member say they’ll say here’s homework gi and work at it together we tell them work at it alone treat it like a take-home exam except that we will not evaluate the answer we evaluate the effort you put into it well there is only one way to convince somebody that looks at your homework that you put in effort that is to put in the effort and by putting the effort you learn without having this pressure I got to get the right and or otherwise I lose a point students can only write in a blue or black ink in class we give them a red pen and they are only allowed to use that red pen and there they have to markup their work with that red pen that’s a meta-cognitive step so students come to class and they say oh this problem I got 5.2 V what did you get John and oh you have 2.6. how did you get 2.6? and they will go to the board and they will work it out and it basically get to correct their own work first just by talking to each other and later we put the official solution on the table and they have that as as a as a backup and again it’s not a matter of getting the right answer is matter of getting the right skills and to evaluate your work correctly again they write a little reflection this is what I learned this is what I need to review, Okay I am going to go quickly through the rubric I am going to skip the rubric because I want to be able to finished this on on time here it is working out your some students came I’ve never seen is my career with 25 pages they were desperate to show me that it put in the effort 25 pages you normally its two pages with just the answer and some students said that you know they had a habit for most of their science classes to wait until the problem was due to go to the boxes were hand in the problem of half-hour early to just verify that that had the right answer with other students who were also handing in their work and they had to fight that habit they would they were working in a problem and say oh I have to get the right oh no it doesnt matter what the right answers is they just have to put in the effort because if you put in the effort you learn whereas getting the right answer might not be a real indication the you have learned here is one student who wrote who said I was inspired and encouraged to do these problems on my own with the promise of collaborative work the next day Another student said that I felt less pressure to find the right answer and more freedom to explore I’ll talk about creativity and innovation in my talk this two next a one you need to be willing to explore and take risks but if you want to be innovative and creative, break new ground you have to be okay with failing the road to innovation is littered with failures our current approach to assessment don’t don’t promote that you get afraid of making a mistake because making a mistake makes you lose a point well here it’s no problem. The answer is at least at this stage in learning not important yet then we have a readiness and assurance activity I’m going to split I am going to skip this because I am going to discuss that in my in my topic one it’s a substitute for the exams so instead of exams I have formative assessment that is a form of collaborative learning I don’t think you’ve ever thought of an exam as an opportunity to learn right but this actually you have actual students go high-five and laugh and go yes and you know during the during the exam I’ll show movies and in my one o’clock talk I’m going to instead skip and go straight to the projects how do you design good projects because remember the project is a Trojan horse right you want to design it so that it gets the students to learn the physics that you want them to learn or at least develop the skills I should say that you want them to master so I went to the Harvard business school which teaches using the case study method and the harvard business school does a fantastic job fantastic job designing cases they are in business schools all over the world and they a set of very simple design rules but before I get to that I want to quickly say few things so we have three projects per semester each is roughly 1 months long and we design a different team for each project so you might be working with a certain group which we form you don’t get to select your team we tell students out with who would be on the team we use a series of psychological profiles and other metrics to form those teams after all later when you take your first job you do not choose who you work with you have to work with whoever you work with and learning how to work with people who might have different opinions is a crucial skill because if you don’t work well together you’re not going to be working well in your job so learning those collaborative skills is truly important so after you done the first project we jumble up the teams you may have developed a fantastic team sorry you’re going to have to work with other people so you work with very different people in the second and so on the projects are not prescriptive but open-ended each team will come up with a completely different solution so there is many solutions as there are teams think about how that compares to normal homework problems you do there is only one solution there might be 100 people doing the same problem there is only one correct solution while in the real world it doesn’t work that way the reason we all have different cell phones and different cars and so on is because there are many solutions to the same problem and creativity should allow for that multitude of solutions so therefore having something that’s open-ended is really important and then with three different types of project fairs it could be a design competition or an oral presentation or poster presentation to also get the communication skills now here’s what I learned from the business school that good cases must have three important properties and I just replace the word case for project one it has to require the practical application of skills alright for example if it’s a finance class you want your students to be able to determine the market capitalization of different companies or to determine the the stock prize in an initial public offering alright because those are skills that these people who are going to go into finance must master well in physics you have similar type of skills you want students to be able to you know determine things like motion or energy and so on because those might be important as engineers later on must be linked to real world problem the way the business school does is it’s very simple to go to the Wall Street Journal they look at cases with companies then they change names of the companies so that students can just Google what the initial public offering price is in physics it is a little bit harder right because most physics textbooks don’t deal they pretend to deal with the real world but then you know everything is frictionless and there is no gravitation and you can ignore this and that I’m sorry in the real world doesn’t work that way but it’s not that hard to do because look around us everything is physics in a sense so just inspire yourself from the world around you and the last thing was really sort of surprising to me I never thought about it and every case and therefore every project must have a component of empathy or social good it must bring you the student in a roll where you help people who improve the world that turns out to be one of the most compelling ways in which you can take ownership that was really hard for me in the beginning how do you do that in physics but was not that hard you know I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the El sistema in Venezuela which is its a it’s a system it’s one of the few things that is okay in business the rest is pretty screwed up but El sistema is pretty remarkable it was an idea of a lawyer in 1969 to fight poverty by putting kids in slums in classical orchestra in the environment of high school orchestra right now there are 400,000 kids in Venezuela with after school instead of putting in the slums they’re going to make music in a classical orchestra and some really famous musicians have come out of that system Dudemal who is a conductor for Los Angelos Philharmonic for example and and and and many many more both in classical music and and and and popular music so if you look at some documentaries that have been made you see students after school go to this this its beautifully a just just Google El sistema not know after my talk and and and you see some beautiful examples but you also see that in the earlier grades there’s no money to buy instruments so the students play on cardboard instruments they’ll play the violin and the teacher just turns up a boombox that makes music新o they learn to at least to move the bow in the right rhythm and and but there is no music so the goal for my students is to design instruments that can be cheaply made for less than you know $15 from recycled parts that make beautiful sound there is a way to improve the world some of you may have seen that the recycle trash orchestra in Paraguay it was a YouTube video that went viral I think two years ago it was so think think along those lines I showed it to my students they all want to make an instrument all want to find a way to get it to Third World countries to help there Anyways so one one project for example is a mission to Mars to get a project brief which then they they have to work on this is a and I’m sorry to sound is not connected I it doesn’t really matter because you can see it they have to design a Rube Goldberg machine I am sorry I filmed this with my phone so it is kind of jerky a Rube Goldberg machine that has at least six steps one is an elastic collision not as an inelastic collision and then the last step has to crack open an egg and it it has to determine all the energy transfers and how much energy goes into the Rube Goldberg machine and how much energy How do I turn the media mute Hmm thats okay I don’t know how to get the Okay the egg was cracked open as you can see so they have to calculate all of the energies and and and and that requires a lot of physics knowledge another very popular project is the crackathon which was inspired by the vice minister they have to design safe that is the uses principles from electromagnetism it has five opaque and one transparent side and then during the competition each team goes to a neighboring teams safe and has 8 min.to try to reverse engineer the the mechanism which uses magnetism to reverse engineer that and crack open the safe and here you see some students who are busy trying to understand how this safe works right I mean you first have to see how it works you have 8 min.and there is incredible time pressure they weren’t even aware of me holding my phone more or less in their face filming it because they were so concentrated on figuring out how it how it worked they actually did not manage to crack it open but thats okay because that doesn’t go into the grade here is another team busy with that same safe and as you can see that eventually managed to crack it open now one thing that unfortunately I don’t have time to discuss because I want to leave a little bit of time for questions is that it’s very important in teams that everybody contributes alright you know you don’t want team where there is one student who sloughs off and then the other teams the other team members do all the work so you have to create a mechanism so that everybody feels compelled to contribute to the team so we have a self peer and team assessment that puts students in a prisoners dilemma the only way to evaluate yourself and others but there is a mechanism built-in I can’t go into details right now that is so that the only thing you can do is be honest is no way of playing the system because if your dishonest the other people will reveal that and you actually lose more than you would’ve lost by being just honest if you’ve not done your work and we do that continuously as peer assessment so students could quickly get feedback from their team members not from me from their team members on how they are doing okay I am going to skip through the assessment but I want to talk briefly about the results in these last 5 min. what about ownership? The course evaluation was 4.2 out of 5 With not a single student who takes this course as an elective okay it is a requirement for all of the students if they had a choice they would probably take the course It’s remarkably high the structure of the class in one comment wrote one student made what was my least favorite subject into one of my favorite I was was I was worried that people including myself would just slack off into the bare minimum but you really need to be on top of your readings and concepts in order to contribute to your team Great class is not a students dear Harvard students this class will be unlike any class you’ve taken and it will hopefully shift the entire foundation upon which you base your education I truly believe everyone one should take this course and this student mentioned ownership I never spoke about ownership prepared to take full ownership of your learning the attendance was above the theoretical maximum automation that normally when I teach a normal class 60%of the students are there and 40 don’t show up even if I bribe them here I don’t bribe them to come to class attendance is not taken 94%attendance and the other one it 97% thats above the theoretical maximum because they is always people are sick in fact sometimes who’s came to class even though they were sick I got e-mail saying you know I don’t feel very well today and I don’t think I can come but I don’t want to let my team down they are not coming to class for me and they shouldn’t come to class for me they come to class for the team and the other thing is it’s a three hour class that’s long and they don’t leave you know the hour goes by since I don’t speak they’re they’re busy working on any they don’t even notice that one o’clock the clock the clock has struck one o’clock you know and maybe a few leave but most of them are there after 10 min.I got to tell them hey there are other classes going to come here so you got a leave 20 min.later I have to shove them out of the classroom because they are having so much fun on their project and on on the other activities we also measure how much they learn compared to two other classes that are similar content physical sciences two and physics 11 A and measured the normalized gain which is a measure of how much the students learn neither of those two classes were taught by me and by it by absolute standards comparing to other classes nationwide and even worldwide that’s a pretty good gain for a traditional class and in AP50 no lectures at all students had a significantly larger gain likewise on electricity and magnetism this is when I do my absolute best lecturing I get this gain in AP 50 no lectures at all They have the same gains so the learning does take place, I want to end with the picture I started with look at these students they’re not laughing because they’re posing for the photographer They are because they’re actually taking ownership of there learning and they’re actually having fun they are actually having fun during that competition and it’s the same even in the other activities in the class in fact the word fun appeared over and over in the evaluations you come out with so much knowledge and experience and fun and I think that the best learning takes place when you experience it as fun learning does not have to be suffering it should be fun just look in a kindergarten right in fact if you step into my class at a random time you may actually think I’m teaching kindergarten and I think that is the way it should be thank you for your time *students clapping

One thought on “Dr. Eric Mazur – Active Learning Speech @ Auburn University’s EASL Classroom

  • April 4, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    I love it.


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