This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

Eric Mazur

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    I picked this one as it is a situation I can relate to in my practice – I have used electronic voting technology to do in-class questions in a large lecture setting.  I have also done a tech-lite version with hands up in a rapid fire true or false quiz at the start of a large lecture – to get some engagement early on.  I relate to what Eric Mazur is saying, especially regarding information transfer and assimilation, but it is difficult to have a flipped classroom in my experience, as I have encountered quite a lot of student resistance in different cohorts I have taught!

    The technology is certainly there to facilitate this, and I think there are plenty of teachers and learning technologists who are supportive and keen to do this- I’m thinking of spending a bit more time explaining clearly the benefits and philosophy of this to see if that can help to allay the anxieties of those who are not sure what it will be like.  I feel like I am a long way from the collaborative teaching practice Mazur outlines – although this does happen outside formal classroom settings, via peer mentoring etc, so I guess it is just an extension of that.

    Does anyone else have similar/different experiences with this practice?


    Hi Ali,

    I have to say that when I have tried this on one or two occassions you are correct that there was a reluctance to engage by students.  I have tried this with groups of students as part of their information skills/search sessions. I found that it did help to tell them that there was much they could learn from each other.  Those with more experience brought their expertise and those for whom there had been problems how to learn from their mistake.  It also helped that once they realised that there were others who had similar experiences and they were not alone.  The problem with this is that it requires time and that is in short supply, especially as I only get to see cohorts once in the academic year and twice if I am very lucky.  When it does work you can feel a real difference in the students’ attitude during the session with a much more positive buzz.


    Hi Elizabeth

    Good point – on some courses I have taught we used it only once in the semester, whereas on others it was a routine part of weekly classes – it’s difficult for one off sessions, and is a big time investment.  I’ve been investigating low cost options without clickers (i.e. using students’ phones etc), but I haven’t found too many so far – a lot seem to have an expensive licence cost even if the software is ‘free’!

    I think the wider point you make about collaborative learning is true though – and reducing feelings that students are alone in not feeling confident in a particular area!

    Sue Barnes

    Hi Ali

    I have experience of the ‘Flipped classroom’ as a student! I was one of the student’s who did not do the preparatory reading which , it turns out, I was able to get away with as the lecturer covered the main points before us to discussion and other activities designed to help us engage with the concepts. The fact that I failed makes me sad. I had er intention of doing the readings but other things came up and got in the way. Perhaps I have an excuse as I was squeezing the study of this module into a very busy LT role but I don’t accept that! Thus, although I very much agree with the Flipped classroom model I can see why it doesn’t always work. I believe we need to get our students to engage with content in their ‘own time’ and to use ‘lecture’ time to add value. Perhaps we need to teach/ train our students in self discipline. I don’t believe it is just a matter of changing attitudes. 




    I agree that it would be hard to argue with Eric Mazur’s assertion that the most difficult part of the learning experience is the accommodation and assimilation of knowledge so that it is internalised effectively. I also agree with your comments about the potential issues a practitioner may face when flipping  traditional classroom/lecture hall environments. It can be difficult for academics who may have spent many years developing their traditional practice to consider the benefits of turning it on its head.

    The commitment of time (as Elizabeth points out) and perhaps the acquisition of new skills can often be perceived as prohibitive and a hurdle that is hard to overcome, something I experience a bit in supporting staff!. This is also compounded by the fact that student’s themselves have spent many years being conditioned to expect a certain type of learning experience, my wife is an infant school teacher and often laments the fact that after a few years of our educational lives, the tables and chairs begin appear and the focus on information transfer begins!

    I wonder if the process was introduced from the onset of a course and initiated in a way that did not intimidate students, so that the initial experience was that of success might help? Many moons ago when I worked in an art school I used to get students to begin drawing with their wrong hand, or even foot, so that they were all equally (dis)advantaged. Terrible analogy, but the idea was to place everyone on a level footing so that they could all feel as good (bad) as each other and begin to engage without fear; as well as have a bond of being put through something ridiculous! We would then discuss the “mark making” to allow students to feel comfortable with critical discourse, although the discourse was serious it didn’t matter because they were not emotionally invested in the drawings they had made. Again, please forgive the analogy, I am writing with my left foot!

    With regards to to software that might be out there I noticed a post from Anne Nortcliffe (@anortcliife)on twitter to some software called Socrative. Also, if you use moodle there is a plug in that is based on the quiz module that will allow you to do something similar. If there is anyone else who is aware of any other tools please chime in as I am also keen tosuppliment our current classroom clicker system which relies on caring around loads of kit.

    Best Daran


    I think that engaging students in the process of the course is extremely important.

    I supported a tutor, who, 3 years ago, did a ‘flipped classroom’ with lectures online and discussion in lecture time.

    On yr 1 of this, he was very excited and tried to explain the advantages to the students. Mostly (except for some that needed the files ‘offline’) the feedback was good and the students appreciated the technique.

    So, in yr 2, he used the same assets and planned to do the same thing. Except that this time the initial lecture was just after he returned from a trans-atlantic flight and he didn’t do the explaining as well. This year the students did not like the flipped classroom, and complained about the loss of lecture time. Weird stuff.

    in yr 3 he didn’t teach the course, so no feedback about flipping, but this shows to me that the students absorbed the inital passion he had for this, and took it in good faith. Second time round it looked like he was slacking off to the students and they slated him.

    First impressions count, and can take much longer to shift. Lecture 1 is the sweet time when the students are listening and eager as pups. Get your enthusiasm for the topic and pedagogy out in this time period and the rest will follow more harmoniously.

    for example something as simple as showing the recommended couple of minutes from the Mazur lecture gets your students to understand WHY you are doing this, and HOW it is going to help them.


    Thx Daran – Socrative looks good, so I will have a play with it!  Love the anecdote from your wife – my Mum was a secondary school teacher and confirms that the pupils are already highly conditioned on entering secondary school.  However, that was in the pre-digital age, so it will be interesting to see whether/if that changes.



    Thanks for the recommendation re Socrative and feedback about being consistent and enthusiastic for this to work.


    Hi,  I just wanted to say that I agree with Phil that the introduction is important.  I think starting with an enthusiastic introduction in which you explain  to students  your teaching methods and the reasons for them combined with an invitation to suggest and try out alternatives is a good way of demonstrating that learning is a collaborative and generative activity in which we  are all participants and all have something to offer.  This seems to me the antithesis of Helen Keegan’s ARG based approach which I found quite uncomfortable to watch.  She seemed to me to be revelling in the priviliged power being a “puppet master” gave her.  But maybe I’m doing her an injustice? PS.  like the idea of using some of the ocTEL video clips in an introduction. I think  I’ll try that out.



    I have tried varying models, including the Flipped classroom model and found that level of study was a key factor. I believe at Level 4 (year 1) we need to concentrate on getting our students to engage with content in their ‘own time’ and to use ‘lecture’ time to add value – but in doing so they need to achieve levels of relatedness, competency and autonomy gradually. However, at Level 6 I found my students to be very engaged in the ‘flipped-classroom’ approach and often requested that they do the preparatory work and that the lecture time was used to discuss themes, etc – generating challenging debate and critical thinking.

    Thanks, Jo

    Niall Watts

    Based on my own experience, I would have to agree with Eric Mazur that assimilation is more difficult than finding information. As an educational technologist, I work mainly with lecturers and only indirectly with students. For topics such as wikis and online discussions I have asked participants to write posts prior to the course. In the course I review their entries but spend most of the time looking at examples of good practice. So, I suppose this is moving toward the flipped classroom. I still do some conevntional teaching eg. Articulate where the class focuses on how to use the software (low level on Bloom’s taxonomy but necessary to achieve design). I give a separate more design focused course on writing for the web and am working on a course on designing for Articulate. I would be interested to know if other educational technologists have similar expereriences?


    Hi Eric

    The Mazur clip also reminded me of flipped classroom.  I think he refers to it as ‘teaching by questioning not telling’, which I liked.  I think this is where I am heading  – hopefully finding the tools to establish a collaborative way of working a flipped classroom with my students.  I am also keen that this is the students space not the institutions – this links to the Rheingold clip ‘learners bring their spaces’.  I think collecting posts and then starting a discussion (as in Mazur) would be a very positive experience and also helps with the  issue of participation and engagement with the community.



    Hi Jo and the group discussing this

    I thought I’d ask you to tell me more about the issues surrounding using flipped classrooms and different levels. Why do you think there are issues with engagement at different levels?

    I chose the ARG example ( Helen Keegan) as what I considered to be powerful and relevant as it addresses ethical and engagement issues but I realise there are limitations in this example such as the ‘level’ of the students involved.

    Do you think adding in different types of engaging techniques such as the haptics used by Margaret Cox or some of the techniques of ‘mystery’ used by Helen Keegan may engage the different levels more? Or is there something else’s that needs addressing before students are involved in this process to prepare and inform the students?

    Look forward to hearing any thoughts and further issues surrounding this

    Sandra (fieryred1)

    Kathrine Jensen

    I also so chose to watch the snippet of Eric Mazur. I wrote a blogpost about how the  video made me realise that this approach was all about collaboration and discussion rather than the technology. I ended up with more questions as I wondered about how the students collaborated outside the classroom and how the in class discussions were built on in terms of students using their understanding/knowledge etc.

    This discussion  thread has made me want to try out socrative, though probably not like Eric Mazur to test understanding of concepts, so thanks!


    I have had a similar experience in my classrooms; however, I was using a non-digital form of communication for class engagement.  I laminated sheets of photocopier paper to create cheap whiteboards for each student and passed out whiteboard makers.  Students could then write out their answers and hold them up to ‘voice” their opinions.

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