Is it possible for students to end a semester with a less sophisticated view of a subject than when they started? That may seem unlikely, but it is exactly what a new study observed among students in a class that used a traditional lecture format.
The really interesting part? Students taking the same class using peer teaching, also known as the peer instruction method, experienced just the opposite.
Eric Mazur, Harvard University’s Balkanski professor of physics and applied physics, co-authored a recently published article, “Peer Instruction in introductory physics: A method to bring about positive changes in students’ attitudes and beliefs.” This study explores how peer teaching influenced physics students’ attitudes, beliefs and views on knowledge and learning.
Check out the study here to learn:
- The difference in how traditional lecture and peer teaching influenced student progress toward either a more expert or more novice-like understanding of physics.
- Whether fixed or variable discussion groups proved more effective in producing expert attitudes.
- If men or women benefited more from the peer teaching approach.
In classes that use peer teaching, learners do readings and assignments prior to the lesson. Once in class, they are asked questions and formulate answers on their own. Instructors often use student response systems (as they did in the study) as a tool to gather student responses to these in-class polling questions and to quickly assess their knowledge.
Students then discuss their answers in groups and attempt to reach consensus on the correct one. If using interactive student response systems (SRS), the class can do the poll again after the discussions to see how everyone’s understanding has progressed. This process forces the learners to actively think through the arguments being developed.