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I began to rethink how I was teaching and realized that students were deriving little benefit from my lectures even though they generally gave me high marks as a lec-

In 1996, the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics

turer. So I decided to stop preaching and

faculty participated in a strategic planning

instead of teaching by telling, I switched to

process, which culminated in adoption of a for-

teaching by questioning using a teaching tech-

mal strategic plan for the department in

nique I have named “peer instruction.” I have been

1998. One of the plan’s education-

lecturing like this now for four years. During this time the stu-

al thrusts, which we called

dents have taught me how best to teach them. As one student said in

“Learning-Based Education,”

a recent interview, "There is the ah-ha! kind of feeling. It's not that

was intended to improve the

someone just told me; I actually figured it out. And because I can

effectiveness of our teaching.

figure it out now, that means I can figure it out on the exam. And

The plan called for the depart-

I can figure it out for the rest of my life."

ment to gain a better understand-

Harvard Physics Professor Eric Mazur on his development of peer instruction and concept tests, two of the active learning techniques being applied with great success in MIT Aero-Astro.

ing of current scholarly work on learning, especially the learning of science and technology, and to use

our improved understanding of learning as a basis for improving our educational process and infrastructure. The plan led us to adopt active learning techniques in many subjects. Active learning is defined as those teaching techniques that stress students’ active involvement in their own

Teaching by Questioning


AeroAstro Annual 1