Long live the clicker!
'The lecture is dead'
Twenty years ago, he thought he was doing a fine job lecturing medical students in physics from the front of the room. They did well on complicated tests, and his student evaluation scores were high.
"I thought, 'Eric, you are a great teacher,' " he said.
But then Mazur, now the dean of applied physics, read somewhere that students weren't getting much out of introductory physics classes. He decided to verbally quiz them on Newtonian physics.
They couldn't do it. They could regurgitate formulas, but they couldn't talk about the forces a heavy truck and a light car would have on each other when they collided.
"Nothing was internalized. Zero. Or next to zero," he recalled. "I almost fell out of my ivory tower."
So he began to develop a new approach, drawing upon experiments in the 1960s at Cornell, where three analog buttons were placed on armrests so physics students could answer questions in class.
By the late '90s, those buttons had turned into clickers, the small, battery-operated touchpads students use to answer multiple-choice and polling questions in class.