Eric Mazur wins Minerva Prize

first_imgThe Minerva Academy on Tuesday named Eric Mazur the first winner of the Minerva Prize for Advancements in Higher Education. In announcing the $500,000 award, the academy specifically noted Mazur’s development of “peer instruction,” an innovative teaching method that incorporates interactive pedagogy into the classroom and has been recognized worldwide for driving dramatic improvements in learning outcomes.Mazur is the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and Area Dean for Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). The Minerva Prize recognizes one faculty member from any institution worldwide who has made a significant impact on student learning experiences through extraordinary innovation in higher education.“Members of the academy unanimously and enthusiastically agreed on the selection of Dr. Mazur as the first recipient of the Minerva Prize,” said Roger Kornberg, a Nobel laureate and the governor of the Minerva Academy. “His development of the peer-instruction teaching methodology, now broadly adopted, embodies the innovation in teaching excellence that the Minerva Prize was conceived to recognize and promote. We are pleased to bestow this honor upon an individual who has contributed so greatly to the advancement of teaching and with such passion for improving student learning outcomes.”The academy considered a large number of nominations. The three primary criteria in selecting the winner were the innovation itself; its impact on students, faculty, and institutions around the world; and how the innovation has inspired both faculty and students to achieve better learning experiences more generally.More than 20 years ago, Mazur developed peer instruction as an alternative to the lecture-driven class. In peer instruction, the instructor “flips” the classroom, engaging students in interactive discussions about the subject material. Students prepare for class by either reading or watching videos covering the content. Classroom time is devoted to deepening the understanding of the material from the pre-class assignment. Presentations by the professor are interspersed with conceptual questions designed to expose common difficulties in understanding the material. Students are given a few minutes to think about the question and formulate their answers; they then discuss their answers in groups of three to four, attempting to reach consensus on a viable answer.Two decades of research support the effectiveness of peer instruction across disciplines.The methodology has been covered in nearly 1,500 papers in peer-reviewed journals and in numerous books. Mazur’s “Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual” (1997) has been translated into four languages.“Eric Mazur’s innovative thinking has been disruptive in the best sense of the word,” said Dean Cherry A. Murray of SEAS. “He has used a scientist’s mindset to formulate and perfect a new approach to teaching that complements what we already know about how students learn. That’s catching on internationally because it prepares graduates to engage with difficult problems beyond the classroom walls.”Mazur will receive the prize at an academy gathering in October.For more, click here.last_img read more

Housing activists, scholars discuss urban displacement

first_img Read Full Story The event was attended by prominent researchers and housing activists from many cities: Nadine Bekdache (Public Works Studio, Beirut), Erin McElroy (Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, New York University), Diana Bell Sancho (MIT Displacement Research and Action Network), Stavros Stavrides (Technical University of Athens), S’bu Zikode (Abahlali BaseMjondolo, Johannesburg), Welita Caetano (Frente de Luta por Moradia, São Paulo), Yasar Adanali (Center for Spatial Justice, Istanbul),  Sai Balakrishnan (Harvard Graduate School of Design), and Cemal Kafadar (CMES, Harvard) responded to the panels.Urban renewal swept North American and European cities for almost a century. Massive demolitions, such as in Boston’s West End, erased thriving city centers, pushing poorer residents into segregated suburbs, pinning communities against each other. Despite their “trans-Atlantic collapse,” today all the world’s metropolises follow these policies. British geographer professor Loretta Lees calls it “planetary gentrification.”In a keynote speech based on her work with London public housing residents, Lees lectured on how organized anti-eviction groups re-create the social fabric that displacement shatters, as affected people become activists that can help others. Scholars shall abandon their top-down expertise and learn to collaborate. Who knows a community better than those who build it every day?In authoritarian countries such as Brazil, however, activists that work to restore minimum welfare and social bonds among the poor are forced to break discriminatory laws, exposing themselves to violence and arrest. Welita Caetano, leader of FLM, a housing organization in São Paulo’s, showed a video of everyday life in vacant buildings occupied by poor families and single mothers of color.“They have to choose between paying rent or buying food,” she explained.Caetano does not hesitate in justifying the breach of law: “The Brazilian constitution states that private property shall fulfill a social purpose.” “We remind institutions of their duty. We organize daycare for children to allow mothers to work. But the government treats us as criminals,” she added.Four FLM leaders were recently arrested, 12 more face criminal charges, including Caetano. In the same way as indigenous activists are targeted or killed for defending the Amazonas from arson, housing activists confront not only the rigidity of law, but also the violence of paramilitary groups. Only last year, community activist Marielle Franco was killed in Rio for her commitment to housing rights.S’bu Zikode, leader of a shack-dwellers movement in Johannesburg, also spoke of his house being burned down in 2009, while his family suffers constant threat of violence.But scholars and intellectuals that work on gentrification often claim neutrality in front of these extremes.In the second keynote speech, Harvard anthropologist Professor Michael Herzfeld said that to seek “objectivity” when violence is in place puts us on the side of the offenders and does not guarantee us to be better equipped to study those contexts. In fact, people who suffer systemic violence will not entrust confidential information to researchers who approach them assuming neutrality.Weatherhead Center Professor Lizabeth Cohen opened the roundtable, discussing with Lisa Owens, board member of City Life Vida Urbana, a social justice organization active in Boston since 1973. CLVU already puts into practice what the conference advocated: every week, attorneys from Harvard Law Clinic give legal advice to foreclosed residents of Boston’s suburbs. Some of their clients attended the conference, showing that scholars able to approach organized civil society are more easily recognized as people whose views matter.To engage in urban struggles is harder than to research or lecture on them. As Owens said, though, “only working together can we create something new.” This is how the urban ecosystem can begin to heal — and we with it. “Exercising or eating spinach will not make us healthy. What makes us healthy is society,” said Columbia professor and psychiatrist Mindy R. Fullilove, author of “Root Shock” (2004).Fullilove spoke at the 2019 Urban Activism conference which was convened by Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES). The organizers — Harvard graduate students Joan Chaker and Aylin Yildirim Tschoepe, Leicester University postdoc Stefano Portelli — aimed at showing how a collaboration of activists and scholars can help prevent further harm to cities.“Society is a collective construct,” Fullilove continued. “If I destroy a piece thinking the rest will be fine, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what ecosystems are.”last_img read more

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