Peer instruction gets a boost with TurningPoint

TurningPoint promotes active learning in the classroom and provides valuable pedagogical data.


Fabio Aricò, lecturer in Macroeconomics at the University of East Anglia, was looking to provide a personal experience to students in his large classes. He wanted to incorporate technology to help increase interaction with his students and create an open dialogue of continuous feedback where students had the ability to self-assess.


Aricò’s program was a rich environment that consisted of lectures, small seminars and workshops, with students working on problems through peer instruction. With the use of TurningPoint, he was able to gain a perception as to how his pedagogy was performing throughout the year. With the data gathered through TurningPoint, he conducted pedagogical research and produced valuable learning analytics.

During lectures, Aricò used TurningPoint to ask review questions at the beginning of a lecture to get a sense of how he taught the previous lesson. He then asked questions to determine student understanding as they proceeded through material. At the end of each lecture, he asked Likert Scale questions to see how the students were doing and to measure any difficulty they were experiencing. With this data, he produced a PDF report that was posted to the Blackboard course management system where he commented on student feedback and provided suggestions to further their improvement.

In large workshops, students were asked ten questions per session and Aricò hid the distribution of results. The students responded anonymously and were then asked to self-assess. Following their self-assessment, the students were encouraged to discuss through peer instruction and were then re-polled.

“TurningPoint empowers the potential to do all sorts of pedagogical research outside of class - and I find it simply amazing.”

Dr Fabio Aricò
Senior Lecturer, The University of East Anglia

When correlating student self-assessment data with student outcomes, Aricò identified very interesting results. He completed these exercises with TurningPoint in workshops, but with a paper quiz in seminars. In workshops, a majority of students self-assessed correctly. In seminars, where TurningPoint was not used, students that performed well were good at self-assessing, but students that were not performing well were not self-assessing well.

He said, “I cannot claim that it’s all thanks to the technology, as the environment is very different, but it seems that the use of TurningPoint allowed students to break down questions better for self-assessment.”

He also correlated formative assessment data and exam performance and matched it to student records so that his data set could be filtered by a variety of demographic criteria.

“TurningPoint empowers the potential to do all sorts of pedagogical research outside of class – and I find it simply amazing,” he explained.

Focus groups were held to identify the power of TurningPoint in eliciting self-confidence and self-efficacy skills. Almost all students recognized the role of TurningPoint as a powerful self-assessment tool. Nearly 50% of his students were international and, due to cultural differences, many of those students were not as vocal. Reactions to TurningPoint from his international students were very favorable, as most felt empowered to have a voice in class.


Aricò said, “The students love to see Comparative Link slides, which show how well the question was answered when polled anonymously compared to the correct responses after peer instruction. At the beginning of the year, I asked the students if they believed in the power of peer instruction, and the majority did not. At the end of the session, I asked if the students thought they learned from their peers, and a majority responded very positively.”

“When I measured the learning gain during peer instruction, which is essentially the power of the pedagogy, I’ve found that learning gains are even higher when the initial set of correct responses is lower. This means that peer instruction really works, and this in quantitative terms is possibly the best result I’ve gained in all analysis so far,” he said.