22 February 2010 1 Comment
[This blog post first appeared on the Audience Response System pilot project website.]
Eric Mazur, Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University, developed some years ago what is now commonly known as Mazur’s Peer Instruction course, through administering ConcepTests.
Mazur’s Peer Instruction course, whilst not necessarily revolving around a method of teaching which involves the use of an ARS, is grounded in the psychology of how peers aid learning. The process “involves students in their own learning during lecture and focuses their attention on underlying concepts” [further information].
Mazur’s approach, grounded in his teaching of Mechanics, addressed a long researched principle weakness of his particular subject matter. By following a straightforward path, whereby students were encouraged to work individually and with peers to find a particular answer, students were assessed twice and given feedback n times in a given sequence.
Nicol and Boyle (2003) have written on the nature of Mazur’s peer instruction course versus discussion based activities in large classrooms. The concluded the the type of dialogue and discussion sequence that takes is vital in relation to the effect on students’ learning. Crouch and Mazur (2001) showed that after peer discussion, the number of students giving correct answers to a concept re-test (prior to any teacher feedback) was higher than first time around. They go on to say that peer discussion is critical to the success of peer instruction.
How might peer instruction influence the design of (my) ARS activities?
A number of initiatives involving both the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office and the Students’ Union have focused on improving the amount of feedback that students receive during units of study. This might be audio and/or written feedback on coursework, or feedback to students’ within a face-to-face context. A range of tools available at the university to enable lecturers to support and enhance the learner experience using classroom feedback technologies, such as the ARS.
Mazur’s peer instruction sequence not only supports the process of giving feedback to students, but also encourages interaction between students within the lecture context, and reflection on the answers to given to multiple choice questions. In turn, this promotes the processes of active learning and engagement by students, and of making lectures more interactive.
An adaptation of Mazur’s peer instruction course has already been used by Prof. James Davenport from the Department of Computer Science, who has used the ConcepTests principle to assess students’ understanding of key Networking related concepts. Students were asked multiple-choice questions individually, and then following peer discussion, answer the question again as a group.
As demonstrated by the two TurningPoint-based PowerPoint slides above, responses before and after peer discussion is different. The correct answer (D) appears with most votes on both occasions, but what the process allows the lecture to do is (1) identify through the first slide that more students (58%) chose the incorrect answer than the correct one, and (2) following group discussion, where presumably students’ may have had to convince each other of the correct answer, some misconceptions were addressed. Following the second round of votes, the lecturer gave feedback and explained why D was the correct answer and addressed any further misconceptions. Further (verbal) questions were taken from students were taken at this point too.
Where can I find out more?
There a number of sessions during Innovations in Learning and Teaching Week 2010 this week, which involve the Audience Response System (ARS). For example, one of last years’ successful Dragons Den projects, led by Alan Hayes from the Department of Computer Science, explored and evaluated the use of ARS in learning and teaching and will be discussed at the launch event today.
e-Learning Taster Session 2 on Thursday 25 February 2010 will focus on introducing ARS , gaining experience of using the technologies and thinking about how you might use them in your teaching. A further discussion of this blog post will take place then, and the presenters will be on hand to answer any questions about the the TurningPoint software and hardware, as well as the pedagogical influences on the design on ARS questions. To book a place on the session, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Crouch, C.H. and Mazur, E. (2001), “Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results”, American Journal of Physics, vol.69, no. 9, pp.970-977 [pdf copy] [Empirical evidence of improved exam pass rates.]
Nicol, D.J. and Boyle, J.T (2003) Peer Instruction versus Class-wide Discussion in Large Classes: acomparison of two interaction methods in the wired classroom, Studies in Higher Education Volume 28, No. 4, October 2003 [pdf copy].