Materials Research Science and Engineering Center
Educational Programs
Research Experience for Teachers (RET)
Are you interested in interactive teaching?

The basic goals of Peer Instruction are to exploit student interaction during lectures and focus students' attention on underlying techniques. It has been assessed in many case-studies using standardized, diagnostic tests and shown to be twice as effective as the conventional lecture approach to teaching. Peer Instruction is now employed in a wide range of science and math courses at the college and secondary level.

At this two hour workshop, participants will learn about Peer Instruction, serve as the "class" in which the technique is demonstrated, and learn about available teaching materials. You may read more about the technique in Peer Instruction: A User's Manual from Prentice Hall or visit the Peer Instruction website.

Over the past few years, Mazur has carried out a dynamic program of educational research to develop a collaborative teaching method called Peer Instruction to assess its usefulness and to disseminate the results. Not only has the method proved itself to be very effective, it has generated considerable interest and has been adopted by a large number of college and high school teachers across the country. MRSEC-supported graduate students have learned about Peer Instruction as teaching fellows and two students have assisted as postdoctoral fellows with the testing and refinement of this methodology. With this expertise Mazur directed a second Peer Instruction Workshop in May 2000 for local teachers. The workshop introduced Peer Instruction, had the teachers participate in demonstrations of the PEER Instruction technique to learn how it is used in the classroom, and provided access to the teaching materials (http://galileo.harvard.edu.)

We initiated a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) during the summer of 2000 with five teachers from local-area K-12 schools. Four of the participants teach at the high-school level in the disciplines of chemistry, biology, physics, and earth science. Our fifth RET participant is a science cluster coordinator and teaches general science to elementary students at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in the Boston Public School system. Adam Fagan, a doctoral student under Eric Mazur, served as the RET program coordinator. Fagan, whose background is in biology, has worked with Mazur in developing Peer Instruction, and is well-versed in the ongoing gender issues studies and work on the use of science demonstrations to promote understanding of concepts. Each of the teachers were involved in laboratory studies with MRSEC researchers, pursued one of the educational topics, and participated in the "end-of-the-summer" seminar series (see REU activity). As follow-up activities to the summer RET program, the teachers are invited to bring their classes back to the Center during the academic year. A separate, supplemental proposal is being submitted to continue the RET program with most of last summer's participants hoping to return. Special efforts will be made to expand the program to teachers from the Boston Public School system.

James McNeil talks about the value of the RET and REU programs.
Click here to view a Quicktime Movie (12 MB).

See the Research Experience Teachers (RET) website for more information,
or contact:

Kathryn Hollar
Director of Educational Programs
29 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Tel.:(617) 496-7479
Fax:(617) 812-0760
E-mail: hollar (at) seas.harvard.edu