Memorisation or Understanding? – Erik Mazur

Think of something you are really good at – something that you excel in to the point that others would comment on just how good you are at it.

Now think about how you achieved this. What did you do to become excellent at that particular thing? Which of these best describes how you acquired your excellence:

1. Trial and error

2. Lecture

3. Practice

4. Apprenticeship

5. Other

If you picked “Practice” you will have been in the majority. If you picked “Lecture” you will have been in an extreme minority. And yet, lecturing is how most of education is “delivered”.

So starts Erik Mazur’s talk on “Memorisation or understanding – are we teaching the right thing?”

Erik Marur is a Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University and has spent his teaching career applying scientific principles to teaching and learning. Making extensive use of data, Professor Mazur shows that much “instruction” only gives an illusion of learning as its based on memorisation, not understanding.

“I thought I was a good teacher until I discovered my students were just memorising information rather than learning to understand the material”. Professor Mazur explains how he came to the conclusion that it was his teaching that caused students to fail, and how he changed his approach with the result of significant improvements to his students’ performance.

For the full story, watch this Youtube video (fast forward to 3:02 if you want to skip the intros):

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