Einstein reversed

Awardee: Peter Galison (FAS)

Summary: Awardee redesigned his Gen Ed course on the Einsteinian revolution, using video-recorded content to “flip the classroom.”

Physics and history of science professor Peter Galison teaches “Science of the Physical Universe: The Einstein Revolution” in the General Education Program at Harvard College. In the Fall of 2013, he inversed the structure of his course to address an observed disconnect between the big lecture format and his students’ interests, abilities, and the ways in which they learn.

The flipped classroom is a model where lectures become digital (interactive) homework and class time is devoted to interactive assignments and discussion, a format “particularly well-suited to Gen Ed because the courses are very deliberately not focused on a single specialized group. It really has to address people from every discipline,” Galison said.

With his teaching team, he produced 16 online lessons for “The Einstein Revolution,” each about an hour, composed of three interactive elements: a cluster of multiple choice questions, a collective activity, and a mini-essay. “Without initial support from the HILT funds, it would have been impossible to develop the visual vocabulary of the course, from animation to discussions with particular experts, from laboratories to film excerpts.   These funds (and associated expertise) gave us an excellent start in conceptualizing how we will test alternative means of grading large numbers of discursive responses (mini-essays). Most every lesson has a collective activity (e.g. a debate), multiple choice physics questions, and a mini-essay. Figuring this out was very much part of the HILT process.”

Galison has since created an “Einstein Revolution” MOOC on the edX platform.