Eric Mazur, who I had the pleasure of meeting several years ago in his on-campus office, won the Minerva Prize, which is dedicated to rewarding "extraordinary innovation" in teaching.

Mazur, a professor of physics at Harvard University, developed the peer instruction method out of frustration with his students’ erroneous conceptions of physics. Too many of them utilized naïve mental models about the physical world in thinking about physics. Mazur wanted them to think like physicists. Unfortunately, his early attempts to improve their physics thinking had failed. He found that just presenting correct concepts was not effective in modifying his students’ faulty mental models.

Mazur’s Peer Instruction method begins with a question designed to surface misconceptions. Learners answer the question, and then talk with their classmates, before a class-wide discussion is engaged. By recognizing and confronting misconceptions, Mazur is better able to help his learners build correct physics conceptions.

To learn more about peer instruction:

  1. Read Mazur's Book (which is focused on how to teach physics)
  2. Look at some research
  3. Read about it on Wikipedia
  4. See Mazur on YouTube (this is very funny at times!)
  5. Read about the Minerva Prize on the Boston Globe
  6. Read Peer Instruction Blog by Julie Schell