Eric Mazur, a professor of physics at Harvard University, will receive the first Minerva Prize for Advancements in Higher Education for his pioneering work on peer instruction in the classroom. The award, which includes a $500,000 cash prize, is offered by the Minerva Academy, a nonprofit offshoot of the entrepreneur Ben Nelson’s for-profit Minerva Project, which aims to create an elite online liberal-arts college.
Mr. Mazur developed peer instruction more than 20 years ago, and it has become popular since. The method aims to engage students by devoting class time to active discussions. Rather than starting a class with regular lecture, the professor poses a series of questions about an assigned reading or video, and gives the students time to discuss and come to a consensus. Mr. Mazur’s book Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual, published in 1997, has been translated into four languages.