Peer Instruction and the Curse of Knowledge

Peer Instruction and the Curse of Knowledge

This is a great explanation of peer instruction by Harvard physics professor, Eric Mazur. He tells the story of what a great lecturer he was early on in his career, and how, one day after reading about some research, his world came crashing down. What he learned from that research was that students in the southwest U.S. tended not to remember anything from their physics classes. 

Mazur then explains how, by accident, he stumbled onto a new approach to teaching, something that he and others call peer instruction. One of the key insights was that students were simply memorizing ‘recipes’ that were useful on tests, but never really seep into the level of deeper understanding.

The problem, he notes, centers on what Steven Pinker calls “the curse of knowledge” – the tendency for those who’ve long mastered a topic to forget what is actually hard to understand the topic when approaching it for the first time. It’s much easier for someone who’s just recently learned the topic to explain it to someone else who’s just learning it for the first time. 

Mazur is a good storyteller, and by listening to this 13-minute video, you’ll come away with a solid understanding of peer instruction and the concrete steps that Mazur uses in his classroom at Harvard to put it to work. Great stuff. 

#learning   #knowledge   #understanding   #teaching  

cc: George Station Laura Gibbs
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