Using Project-Based Learning to Engage Students

    In contrast to traditional lecture-based courses, using projects in the classroom pushes students to actively apply what they have learned. In AP50: Physics as a Foundation for Science and Engineering, instructors put aside textbooks and lectures, challenging students instead to construct a machine that meets a real world challenge. Once students are engaged, instructors then begin to make textbook connections, pointing out how fundamental class concepts can enhance the quality of students’ project. This is what Eric Mazur calls the “Trojan Horse” of learning.

    Using Team-Based Learning to Prepare Students for the Real World

    As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the future of work will become increasingly collaborative. As he explains in this video, this is what underpins Eric Mazur’s approach to team-based learning: a belief that instructors need to help students learn how to work together because this is how they will succeed once they leave our classrooms. 

    Designing Authentic Projects

    Effective projects are carefully designed in order to deepen and broaden students’ understanding of course concepts by applying them to real-world challenges. The point is to demonstrate to students how what they’re learning in the course -- information that may see fairly dry in the abstract -- becomes  extremely important when applied to everyday problems. In this video, Eric Mazur and his teaching team underscore the value of using projects to give learning a deeper meaning. They emphasize how learning is much more memorable when students get a chance to be hands-on and enact...

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    Designing Project Teams that Work

    Teams are most productive and conducive to learning when students with complementary skills, knowledge, and dispositions work together. That said, students generally don’t enter classrooms already sorted in these diverse ways. Often they group together based on achievement and engagement or based on background characteristics. In this video, Eric Mazur and his teaching team explain how and why they intentionally design heterogeneous teams. By using pre-class surveys and student demographic data, they find ways to assign students to teams in ways that play to each member’s strengths and...

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    Using Team Contracts and Peer Feedback to Foster Team Building

    Many students balk at the idea of working in teams, particularly when they don’t know who the other students are. Students may be concerned others won’t pull their weight or that the output may not meet expectations. Given this, it is important for instructors to be intentional in fostering team-building experiences and peer-accountability processes. Doing so, instructors can ensure that teams get off on the right foot and persist productively throughout the class. In this video, Eric Mazur and his teaching team give examples of how they do this by discussing the use of reflection, team...

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    Devaluing the Right Answer

    Most instructors experience students asking them if they have the right answer or just asking for the right answer outright. However, as Eric Mazur and his teaching team in this video acknowledge, simply giving students the right answer can “sabotage” problem-based learning. This is because what matters in problem-based learning is not the answer so much as the process of arriving at an answer. Devaluing the right answer is one way for instructors to make this principle of teaching clear in their classrooms.

    Using Peer Instruction to Improve Student Learning

    Peer instruction discussions are an efficient and student-centered way to address common misconceptions about  course concepts. By getting students to individually answer class questions and then getting those with different answers to talk to one another, you can encourage students to assess each others’ ideas and move closer towards the correct answer. In this video, Eric Mazur describes how he leverages peer instruction using in-class polling technology. He notes how even after a short discussion amongst peers, students can go from around 50 percent ...

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    Creating Assessments with Individual and Collaborative Components

    We all know the image: Stressed, fearful students trickle into a silent exam hall, all tired from cramming from the night before. But as Eric Mazur notes, stress is not conducive to deep and meaningful learning. In fact, the stress of exam culture often means that students only study for tests and then forget what they learned soon after. To flip this script, Mazur and his teaching team have instituted two stage exams. In the first stage, students work individually; but in the second stage, they share answers with each other, discussing and debating until they find the right answer...

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    Tracking the Learning Process Using Design Notebooks

    Given the messiness of the design process, it’s important for students to be able to track their own learning while they engage in projects. In this video, Eric Mazur outlines how he uses design notebooks in his class in which students document all elements of their project- and team-building experience. Students submit design notebooks with their completed projects and are graded for their completeness and quality of reflections. These notebooks help reinforce the principles of iterative development that underpin project-based learning and further emphasize the importance of process....

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    Presenting Projects Publicly as Summative Assessment

    Creating opportunities for students to make their learning public can raise the stakes and broaden a course's horizons. In this video, one of Eric Mazur’s students and his teaching assistant introduce how they use a public project fair as the primary summative assessment in the class. At the fair, students demonstrate how their projects work to external judges and then answer questions about the design process and related class concepts. The result is an engaged public and motivated, proud students.

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    Arlotta - Clip 1

    Professor Levy teaching in class

    Topics Covered

    Discussion facilitation; questioning, listening and responding; Socratic discussion; and using humor

    • InstructorTodd Rakoff, Byrne Professor of Administrative Law
    • Student Group: Graduate
    • School: Harvard Law School
    • Course: Legislation & Regulation
    • Clip Length: 5 minutes

    Go to Arlotta - Clip 1