But with the ability to mass-produce books—and especially now, with video clips that can be viewed online—information transfer can take place effectively outside of school, leaving valuable class time to ensure that students understand the material and can apply it in various contexts.

That’s what a growing number of educators are doing by adopting an inverted, or “flipped,” model of instruction, in which students are exposed to the content for homework and then practice or apply it under the guidance of the instructor—and Mazur explained how he does this in the physics classes he teaches at Harvard, with very effective results, through peer instruction.

First, Mazur quickly summarizes the key concepts in the lesson that students were to learn. Then, he poses a question to the class that forces them to think about the information and apply it in a whole new way. Students consider their answer, then respond using a personal response system.

Next, Mazur has students discuss their answers with their peers who are sitting nearby, with students taking turns defending their choices and the reasoning behind them.

Then, he poses the question again and has students re-answer—and he finds the percentage of correct answers nearly always increases the second time around, once students have had a chance to discuss the problem with their peers. Finally, he shares the correct answer and the explanation.

The discussion part is key to the success of Mazur’s strategy.


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