Modestly, rather than assuming his students were stupid (a hard case to make about Harvard pre-Med students), Eric began looking at how he could change his teaching style to make it easier for his students to better understand those basic concepts. His eureka moment serendipitously occurred at a hastily-organised study session the panicked students requested after their dismal performance on the test they should have aced. Whilst trying to force the concept into his students’ brains with varying diagrams, some students who did understand the ideas were able to explain it to those who didn’t in terms they could appreciate.
The important discovery was that students who understand the content are also more likely to appreciate the barriers to understanding, having recently overcome them themselves. As an expert who had understood these ideas for more than 20 years, Prof. Mazur couldn’t remember what made them difficult to learn. He said “The longer you teach, the less qualified you become to teach.”
From this, Eric developed his Peer Instruction method, which can be seen
You can watch Eric’s lecture “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer” here and look at his slides here
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