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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Peer Instruction Effectiveness

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. Top
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. Top
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 effective ConcepTests here.  Also, you can find and search for free our official library of ConcepTests at . Top
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 physics. Top

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. Top
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." Top
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 here.   Top
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 class. Top
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 here.   Top
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 some signal.   Top

Overcoming Barriers

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 here  and resistance from colleagues here . Top
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 questions. Top