Monday, April 13, 2009

Constructivism vs Rote Learning in Science

A conversation with Dr. Eric Mazur (the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University and an internationally recognized scientist and researcher) entitled Using the ‘Beauties of Physics’ to Conquer Science Illiteracy by Claudia Dreifus appeared in the NY Times in July 2007.

Dr. Mazur discusses rote memorization versus constructivism in his University classroom.

Dr. Mazur states:

It’s important to mentally engage students in what you’re teaching, he explains. We’re way too focused on facts and rote memorization and not on learning the process of doing science. From what I’ve seen, students in science classrooms throughout the country depend on the rote memorization of facts. I want to change this. The students who score high do so because they’ve learned how to regurgitate information on tests. On the whole, they haven’t understood the basic concepts behind the facts, which means they can’t apply them in the laboratory. Or in life.
Today, by having the students work out the physics problems with each other, the learning gets done. I’ve moved from being “the sage on the stage” to “the guide on the side.”

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