This is a continuation of last month’s post, summarizing the results of a recent literature review of Peer Instruction, Research-Based Implementation of Peer Instruction: A literature Review. In this month’s post, I’ll review the results on how to use peer instruction effectively.

**Peer instruction** is the recommended use of clickers, following the following cycle:

- Instructor lectures for a short time
- Students vote individually using a clicker or other mechanism
- Students discuss the question together (if the majority didn’t get it right)
- The instructor explains the answer and holds a class discussion.

Here are the key questions addressed about peer instruction (PI) in this review.

**1. Does it matter if students vote/think individually first?**

Some instructors use a modified version of PI where the “vote individually” step is skipped. I’ve often wondered if this matters, since it seems really important for students to commit to an answer on their own before they can engage meaningfully in conversation. Students seem to agree with me: most students prefer having the individual time to think first, because (as summarized by the study authors), “(this) time forced them to think about and identify an answer to the question; they felt that this led them to be more active and engaged during the peer discussion,” letting them form their opinions without being influenced by others. Starting with the peer discussion led to more passivity. Only one study has directly measured some outcomes associated with students having time to think on their own (as opposed to asking student opinion): They found that, when students had time to think on their own, they spent more time arguing their ideas with their neighbors during peer discussion, suggesting that the conversation was of higher quality.

So, yes, it does seem to be important to give students time to think on their own before talking to their neighbors.

**2. Does it matter if you show students the histogram (after the first vote)?**

After students vote on their own, the instructor might show students how the class voted, or wait and have them discuss without knowing the class majority. I always advocate *not showing* the histogram, because I think it gives away the game and reduces the interest in discussion. The research on whether this is true is mixed: One study showed that students tended to converge to the more common answer when they saw histogram before their discussions, because they think that answer is correct. However, another study didn’t replicate those results. The current study authors suggest waiting until after discussion to show the results, to limit bias, but helping the confidence of those who got the correct answer initially.

**3. When should you have students discuss the question?**

When most of the students get the question right, it may not be worthwhile to have students turn to their neighbors to discuss. Several studies have confirmed this; students don’t learn as much from talking to their neighbors on easy questions, they learn the most when many students got the question initially wrong (during the individual vote). Even when the majority of the class get the question wrong (e.g. less than 35%), students still get benefit from talking about each other about the question. Above 70% correct in that initial vote, however, it may be best to skip the peer discussion.

**4. Does peer discussion matter?**

Some instructors might think that these gains can be achieved without having students talk to their neighbors; that it’s more efficient to explain the answer to the students rather than having them talk to each other. I have blogged about this before. Overall, the answer is yes, peer discussion does matter. Students are able to put together the correct answer through discussion, even if none of them knew the answer before. That suggests that the right answer isn’t spreading around the room, necessarily; students can construct their knowledge through discussion. Giving students more time to think about the question doesn’t get the same results; learning gains are highest when students talk to one another.

**5. How much time should be given for voting?**

This is not a very well-studied question, but one study suggested that students take longer to give an incorrect answer to an easy question than a correct answer, likely because those who know the answer can respond quite quickly. Difficult questions, however, take more time to answer, regardless of whether the student eventually votes with the correct or incorrect response. The authors of the current study suggest that when 80% of the students have voted, the instructor should give students a final countdown letting them know that they will end the vote soon.

**6. How much does the instructor’s cues and explanation matter?**

Since discussion is so important, what role does the instructor have to play? A lot! I’ve written about research on the instructor’s role before. Two studies have found that students learn the most when they discuss with their neighbors and the instructor gives their explanation for the answer; either one alone just doesn’t suffice. How the instructors cue students to discuss with their neighbor is also important; when students are told to discuss their reasons, rather than just their answers, students have much higher quality reasoning in their discussions.

**7. Does grading matter?**

I have written before about the pitfalls of giving credit for correct answers to clickers. This caution is mirrored in the current study; tying students’ grades to their ability to answer clicker questions correctly changes the dynamics of their conversation so that the discussion is dominated by one student, presumably the one that is more knowledgeable.

This research does have its limitations, such as little study of the relationship with student characteristics such as gender or underrepresented students. However, it can serve as useful guidance for instructors; the recommendations from the study are outlined in the graphic below.

Full reference:

Reposted from my article on the iclicker blog.

]]>I’ve got a new short video to share, focusing on the history of Tutorials at CU, featuring our own Steven Pollock:

This is part of some work I’ve been doing for PhysPort.org, which makes evidence-based resources available for physics instructors. All videos for the project, including our short introduction to Tutorials, can be found on the YouTube playlist.

]]>Confused about what the literature recommends for best use of clickers? Want to have all the information summarized and synthesized for you in a nice, trustworthy reference? Well, I’ve certainly been hungry for such a reference, and now we have it: A team of scholars in chemistry education have just published a very comprehensive review across all the STEM fields, Research-Based Implementation of Peer Instruction: A literature Review. I will outline the results from this paper in this month’s post (focused on the data supporting the use of Peer Instruction) and next month (where we’ll look at the data on effective use).

**Peer instruction** is the recommended use of clickers, following the following cycle:

- Instructor lectures for a short time
- Students vote individually using a clicker or other mechanism
- Students discuss the question together (if the majority didn’t get it right)
- The instructor explains the answer and holds a class discussion

Here are the key questions addressed about the efficacy of peer instruction (PI) in this review.

**1. Does Peer Instruction help students learn?**

Yup, it sure does, but we knew that before from a wide variety of studies. Students perform better on conceptual tests of their learning and course exams. The data summarized in this review may be useful for those who need to justify their use of PI to administrators or others.

**2. Does Peer Instruction improve problem-solving skills?**

Fewer studies have been done in this area, but the answer seems to be yes, especially in terms of improving students ability to generalize their knowledge, through applying material to novel problems.

**3. Does Peer Instruction reduce dropout rates?**

Again, the answer appears to be yes; 3 studies in physics and computer science have found dropout rates reduced by 15-50% in courses using PI.

**4. What do students think of peer instruction?**

Here, the results are a bit more nuanced. Overall, the answer is that they like it; many students have shown that students feel that PI helps them learn, and students feel more self-confident in courses using PI. However, student course evaluation results are mixed, with some studies reporting no difference and some a positive change. Some studies have reported a negative response to PI, including one that found more mixed responses among students who are majors in the discipline. However, students generally recommend the use of PI.

**5 . Does the type of question used matter to the results?**

Higher-order questions (beyond simple recall) are assumed to be more beneficial, since they give students something meaningful to discuss and can lead to conceptual change (rather than just reinforcing facts). Some studies have tested this assumption, and have found that students improve most on questions that test higher-order skills, or for questions on which most students don’t initially get the right answer.

**6. Are clickers necessary?**

Some instructors use electronic “clickers” to collect student votes, and others use flash cards or other system. Two studies have shown similar learning gains in classes using either method. However, one study suggested higher learning outcomes with clickers compared to flash cards. More research is needed in this area, however. Anyone need a research project?

Stay tuned next month for the results on how to use Peer Instruction!

*Full reference:*

Research-Based Implementation of Peer Instruction: A literature Review. T. Vickrey, K. Rosploch, R. Rahmanian, M. Pilarz, and M. Stains. CBE Life Sciences Education, 14(1), March 2015.

Reposted from my article on the iclicker blog.

]]>This week there’s a great opportunity to learn more about lots and lots of NSF-funded STEM education projects. Check out this showcase of more than 100 videos. The videos offer a 3-minute glance into the variety of innovative work being funded by the National Science Foundation in education.

http://resourcecenters2015.videohall.com

**You can do stuff during this week:**

**View videos** of interest, **post questions **to the presenters,** join the discussions **that are taking place around each video, and** vote for your favorite videos** via facebook, twitter, or email ballot**.** And please spread the word about this event to friends, family and colleagues!

I have two videos in the showcase myself (click the link to get to the video):

Check them out, and we’d appreciate your vote!

@cadrek12 | #nsfstem

]]>I’m giving another free webinar for i>clicker next Tuesday, May 5th, at 3pm ET. This is called “ClickerStarter for College Faculty” and is intended as a quick primer on the effective use of clickers for those who want an overview of the benefits and best uses of clickers.

Have you heard about using clickers in class, but haven’t gotten around to actually trying it? Let us introduce you to this powerful tool to increase student engagement, and help make teaching fun. In this interactive webinar, we’ll explore the why and how of using clickers to ask thoughtful questions that provoke student discussion. We’ll talk about the advantages of clickers, look at some example questions, discuss common challenges, and strategies for overcoming them. You will leave this webinar armed with resources and ideas, ready to try clickers in your class.

**Register here**: https://www1.iclicker.com/resource/webinar-clickerstarter-for-college-faculty/

**More webinars** from i>clicker at https://www1.iclicker.com/resource/#webinars.

**Materials from the webinar: **(Available for a limited time)

- Handouts
- Slides
- Videos and Instructor Guide at http://STEMclickers.colorado.edu