Great teachers can bring physics to life, shaping students' impressions of a subject for the rest of their lives. Walter Lewin, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is considered to be an exception even among exceptional teachers. He has inspired students in a career that has spanned six decades. In particular, he is famed for his flamboyant lectures where he delivers colourful demonstrations where he involves the audience.

In this video interview, Lewin describes his approach to teaching and the keys to success. "The class has to see, and smell, and feel in their hands that you love physics," he proclaims. "You have to try very hard – and it takes a tremendous amount of preparation – to make difficult concepts simple." Later in the interview, Lewin reveals that he always does several dry runs of his lectures, including a final practise run at 6 a.m. on the day that students experience the lecture for the first time.

This video interview with Walter Lewin was produced in conjunction with the March 2014 issue of Physics World, which is a special issue about education. In the issue, Lewin features in an article about the rise of a new type of education initiative known as massive open online courses, or "MOOCs". Recorded versions of Lewin's lectures form the basis of the physics MOOCs offered by MIT through the educational platform edX. You can download a free PDF copy of the entire March special issue of Physics World.

And don't forget that if you want to read Physics World each month, then you can do so through our digital edition, which can be accessed online or via our Apple and Android apps simply by becoming a member of the Institute of Physics. You can join the Institute as an IOPimember quickly and easily online. This membership includes an annual digital subscription to Physics World for just £15/€20/$25 per year.

  • This video was posted on 18 March 2014. This video relates to a course that is no longer available.