Peer Instruction—no clickers needed

Feb 16
nclass peer instruction

Peer Instruction—no clickers needed

The trend of technology in the classroom is growing. Whether you are already running a flipped classroom or just interested in new teaching strategies, peer instruction may be worth a try.

How does it work?

Simply put, students teach each other during class. How? First, students come to class prepared with new knowledge on a subject—maybe you’ll have your students read chapters from a book, watch a video lecture, or instruct each student to research a subject on their own. Next, with a steering question, you give students the chance to discuss the material together. This gives each student the chance to work out the concepts collaboratively.

Why does it work?

Some students get the material right away, others do not. Traditionally, those who don’t get it might have a professor repeatedly explain in hopes that one explanation will stick. If instead students who have recently grasped the concepts explain them to their peers, there is a better chance that explanation will stick. Students who have just learned the material give better explanations because, as Eric Mazur put it in his peer learning video, “[they] know what the difficulties are that a beginning learner has”. A professor, on the other hand, “[the material] is so obvious, so simple that he doesn’t understand why somebody doesn’t understand it.”

Technology and peer learning

Peer learning functions best when students can identify (1) if they understand the material, (2) others who understand the material, and (3) others that need an explanation. If students understand where which group they are in, they can find another student to give or receive an explanation. A great way to test this knowledge is to ask a multiple choice question. Then, have the students send their answer electronically. While some classrooms have students buy expensive clickers to record their responses, nClass provides the same services and more with the technology students already own—their smart phones tablets or laptops. With nClass students can not only record responses to multiple choice questions, but also short answer, numeric response and other question types. Not to mention, students can also electronically raise their hand or submit text comments during class to add to comprehension.

Have you tried peer instruction? What are your strategies?

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