Is Peer Instruction more effective than the traditional lecture method?
Research done at a variety of institutions
confirms that Peer Instruction is significantly more
effective than the traditional lecture method. To convince
yourself and your colleagues you may want to collect and
compare data obtained before and after implementing Peer
Instruction. Check the Mazur
Group website or the Monash University website for research articles on Peer Instruction.
Does Peer Instruction teach quantitative problem solving?
To determine how well students who are
taught with Peer Instruction learn quantitative problem
solving skills, we examined scores from final exams which
consisted entirely of quantitative problems. First, we
considered the scores from an introductory physics course
taught using traditional methods, and compared them to the
scores from the same exam given to an introductory physics
course that used Peer Instruction. The students taught using
Peer Instruction, outperformed students taught using
traditional methods in their ability to solve quantitative
problems. What the data shows is that better understanding
appears to lead to better quantitative problem solving
skills, even if there is less emphasis on problem solving in
lecture. Besides, studies have conclusively shown that
conceptual understanding is retained much better than problem
solving skills. To make sure your students have adequate
opportunity to develop quantitative problem solving skills,
you should assign quantitative homework problems and provide
assistance with them outside class. To make sure the students
see the connection between the different types of problems,
it is a good idea to use a mixture of conceptual and
quantitative problems on exams.
Will Peer Instruction work in my institution?
Our research shows that the success of Peer
Instruction lies in its adaptability to a broad range of
institutions and a wide range of disciplines. To make it
succeed at your institution be sure to set realistic goals
for your students and adjust the level of the ConcepTests to
their capability.You can find more information about creating
Also, you can find and search for free
our official library of ConcepTests at
How does Peer Instruction help students learn from their peers?
Peer Instruction helps students learn by
encouraging them to articulate their thinking. The discussion
process helps both the stronger and the weaker students.
Research has shown that Peer Instruction yields significant
gains in conceptual understanding and problem solving skills.
It is also linked with retention in STEM majors and reducing
the racial and gender gap in conceptual understanding of
Peer Instruction Implementation
Can I cover all the material if I teach with Peer Instruction?
If you assign the material you want your
students to learn as reading, you don't have to cover
everything in class. Simply focus the class on the key points
and make sure you tell your students that the reading
assignments, not the lectures, determine the coverage for the
course. In the final analysis, coverage is determined by what
they learn from all the elements in the course, not just what
is discussed in class.
Is it more work to prepare for an interactive course?
With active learning, as with lecturing, the
first time through there is a lot more preparation with
either technique. Then, subsequent times through, there's
less preparation with either technique. We just don't think
there's a difference in the quantity, it's just the character
of the preparation is different. As one of our instructors
stated: "Preparing for an active learning class isn't more
work or less work than preparing for a lecture class. It's
just really quite different to just make sure the material
hangs together, makes sense. Collect your feedback from
students, which with email, becomes easier all the time. It's
truly wonderful but is about the same amount of work."
How do I motivate my students to do their reading?
Research shows that reading assignments work
well at a broad range of institutions and in a variety of
disciplines. It is important to explain to your students that
reading before class does not take more time than reading
after class. We use Just-in-Time Teaching to motivate our
students. Also, be sure to assign reading consistently.
Tailor your lectures to those who have done the reading, not
to those who haven't. Read more about motivating your
students to do their reading
How do I motivate my students to participate in class?
Because these interactive techniques may be
new to many students, it is important to motivate them to
participate in Peer Instruction from the very beginning of
the course. Encourage your students to participate in
interactive learning by explaining the method at the
beginning of the course, by using the feedback to the reading
assignments to plan your lectures, and by making sure that
your exams reflect the type of questions you ask in
What makes an effective ConcepTest?
The trick in designing ConcepTests is to
think of them like designing your learning goals for a
lesson, or for the chapter that your students are reading. It
is key to decide what are the ideas that you really want them
to get out of that material. Then, to go through and ask
questions that will reveal the kinds of uncertainties they
might have about that material. That and if you are using
multiple choice, have at least two of the choices in the
questions, the ones that students might at their level might
plausibly think are correct. For a ConcepTest to be effective
it must address your students' misconceptions. It should also
challenge them appropriately by being neither too easy, nor
too hard, that is, somewhere between 30 and 70 percent of the
students should answer it correctly before discussion. Read
more about how to write effective questions
How do I manage students in a Peer Instruction Class?
Most instructors who use Peer Instruction
report that they have no problems managing their students. To
get peer discussions going, make sure you engage the students
at the right level, so they can learn from each other. To get
their attention back after discussion, use a microphone or
How do you overcome student resistance to the method?
People tend to resist change. So, resistance
to interactive teaching may come from colleagues and it may
come from the students. In summary, to help overcome any
resistance your students may have, explain the method to
them, and make sure the exam reflects the conceptual thinking
practiced in class.To convince your colleagues, collect data
and compare performance before and after implementing Peer
Instruction. Read more about student resistance
and resistance from colleagues
What will happen to my end of semester ratings?
Most users of Peer Instruction report
positive change in their end of semester ratings, but some do
report resistance from students to the method. Be sure
to motivate your students at the very beginning of the course
by explaining the method and why and how it works and by
providing opportunities for student feedback early on. Also,
make sure that the exams reflect the philosophy and goals of
the course by including conceptual questions as test