Let students learn from each other
Peer Instruction is a student active learning method that encourages dialogue between student/student and/or student/teacher to strengthen the process of developing conceptual understanding and critical thinking.
Students are made aware of their own learning process by articulating their opinions and argue for them in a learning context. Having to speak out and put words to their knowledge, students learn and reflects on what they do or do not understand.
Confessions of a converted lecturer
Peer Instruction was pioneered by Professor Erik Mazur at the University of Harvard. After giving lessons for a while, he discovered that the students only memorized the concepts and theory - they weren't learning it. He realized that he had to do some didactic changes, to make sure that as many students as possible understood the theory he was lecturing. He started asking questions after presenting theory, and with the help of technology, received feedback of how many who understood, and how many who didn't. If the numbers on understanding were low, he asked the students to turn to their neighbour and together discuss their answers. When he asked the same question again, the respons always showed that more students answered correctly. Students learned from their peers simply by discussing the subject for a couple of minutes.
Watch Professor Mazur tell about what led to the idea of Peer Instruction:
Overview of the Peer Instruction Process
- Ask a question that sparks discussion
- Have students vote individually on the choice they believe is correct
- Have students discuss the question and answer choices with peers
- Have students vote on the correct answer
- Discuss the possible answer choices as a class
- Show the correct answer and any follow-up discussion related to this answer. If using clickers you can show the aggregate data of student responses.
Engage in this process 3-5 times during a typical 45 minute lecture period.
- Watch the whole video where Eric Mazur confess his defeat in teaching and how it led to developing the Peer Instruction model.
- University Teaching & Learning Center at the George Washington University provides more information about Peer Instruction.
- The article Peer Instruction: Results from a range of classrooms shows that PI has positive effect on learning gains.
- Professor Julie Schnell at the University of Texas is the author of the blog Turn to your Neighbour - The Official Peer Instruction Blog.
Peer Instruction can be conducted with or without digital tools, but it is definitely more efficient to use digital tools to get effective feedback. There are a lot of different online tools to use for this purpose, but we made a selection for you: