Interactive Teaching DVD:Promoting Better Learning Using Peer Instruction and Just-In-Time Teaching

Derek Bok Center  
February 2007
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In this DVD, Harvard University physicist Eric Mazur demonstrates the use of Peer Instruction and Just-in-Time Teaching.The DVD serves as an interactive workshop that can be used by individual teachers or in group training sessions to learn about these techniques. New and experienced teachers can navigate at their own pace and focus on what interests them most. This DVD will also help you implement interactive teaching in your own classroom.


Learn how to use interactive teaching techniques in your courses with this DVD, featuring the award-winning documentary FROM  QUESTIONS TO CONCEPTS, with Harvard Physics Professor Eric Mazur as your guide

Table of Contents

1. Getting Started: An Overview

The documentary “FROM QUESTIONS TO CONCEPTS” provides an introduction to “Interactive Teaching.” Join Eric Mazur and his students as they work towards a deeper understanding of the basic physics concepts taught in his course. “How It All Fits Together” shows how the PI and JiTT techniques complement each other.


2. Just-in-Time Teaching

Learn how JiTT gives you valuable pre-class feedback from your students that allows you to address their understanding and any possible confusion directly.


3. Peer Instruction

Walk step-by-step through the implementation of PI, and explore strategies for integrating PI into your classroom.Use the interactive “Try-It-Out” section to experience the student’s side of the question-and-answer approach in a Peer Instruction lecture.


4. FAQs

Will interactive teaching work in your classroom? How effective is it? How do students react? This section provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions and includes research data as well as faculty and student reactions to the techniques.


5. Resources

To connect with other instructors who have implemented these techniques across a range of disciplines, find materials, and obtain up-to-date information, visit the companion Website:


Eric Mazur holds a triple appointment as Harvard College Professor, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, and Professor of Physics at Harvard University. 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, 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, and studies of electronic and structural events in solids that occur on the femtosecond time scale.


In 1988 he was awarded a Presidential Young Investigator Award. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and has been named APS Centennial Lecturer during the Society's centennial year. Dr. Mazur has held appointments as Visiting Professor or Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Leuven in Belgium, National Taiwan University in Taiwan, Carnegie Mellon University, and Hong Kong University.


In addition to his work in optical physics, Dr. Mazur is interested in education, science policy, outreach, and the public perception of science. He believes that better science education for all–not just science majors–is vital for continued scientific progress. To this end, Dr. Mazur devotes part of his research group's effort to education research and finding verifiable ways to improve science education. In 1990 he began developing Peer Instruction a method for teaching large lecture classes interactively. Dr. Mazur's teaching method 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, including advisory and visiting committees for the National Science Foundation, 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.


Dr. Mazur is author or co-author of 191 scientific publications. 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.


Eric Mazur lives in Concord, Massachusetts with his wife Angela, and children Natalie, Marc, and Sophie.


Reader Review(s)

Bill Taylor, Teacher Drew School, San Francisco

"I have been using this on and off in introductory physics (not AP) for about three weeks now. I don't use it every day, but every time I do I am very pleased. With the right questions, the kids really get into it: "That's the ACCELERATION dude, not the VELOCITY!" Music to my ears!"


Charlie, Student Harvard University, Cambridge

"One of the unique things about the way the class is taught is that the material sinks in by having to answer something the night before lecture and during the lecture you have to manipulate it several times before you ever even do a problem set, or walk into lab, or do a demo about the material."


"Whether or not you had the same answer, you learned the material so much better when you have to teach it. And you are trying to convince the person next to you of your answer, whether it's you're right and they're wrong or trying to find if you both have the same answer, trying to think of different ways to explain the same thing."


"The Peer Instruction technique really coaxes you into internalizing the material much faster…You intuitively grasp things better if you have to explain it to someone else."


Rebecca Younkin, Teacher Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley

"The students give really positive reactions to Peer Instruction in general. I think they felt it gave them a lot of opportunities to test if they were really learning something."


"Students are more confident with the terminology, more confident in class when they have seen the material before. They are more willing to participate in discussions because they know they are not coming into it cold."


Howard Georgi, Teacher Harvard University, Cambridge

"[JiTT] is simply a great way of encouraging [students] to keep up and also getting real time feedback from them."

"You almost feel that you're there talking to the students about what's going on. And you can see very clearly patterns of things that a lot of people don't understand. And you can see… that there's certain individuals who are asking really interesting questions…and then you can go off and contact them."


"It's awfully hard to tell whether a lecture is successful, except by simply seeing who likes it and so that getting things beyond a popularity contest [with PI], to seeing actual give and take between students and faculty, I think, is an exciting prospect."


"This is a place where you can use technology in the service of human interactions. And that's a good thing. The fact that that gives you a way of measuring a certain kind of interaction is something that you really didn't have before."


Eric, Student Harvard University, Cambridge

"When you have to explain the way that you're thinking and the way that you get a right answer to another person, that if anything, reinforces the learning process, more than getting it wrong, because you're explaining the mechanism behind what you did to solve that problem."


Eric Mazur, Teacher Harvard University, Cambridge

"The questions were a tool to look inside yourself and ask what you didn't understand. Because you don't do that unless you're asked. The most valuable feedback from the responses that I get is to discover what they find difficult in the material. It is often very different from what I thought they would find difficult. It's an excellent way to zoom in on their difficulty and respond better to their needs."


"The way the brain stores information is by storing models. You try to make a conceptual model of what you see, try to explain the things you see, by finding relationships between the parameters. You try to see this in a larger context and understand the fundamental reasons. And in a sense, this process, this engagement, this teaching by questioning rather than by telling, forces students to develop these models in the classroom rather than basically writing down what I write on the board… So the idea is now, rather than having just this passive transfer of information, and then having the student think, “I'll try to understand it later,” to start some of this model building, this development of models, right in the classroom, in my presence, where I can help them develop the right models."