The concept of “student engagement” is based on the belief that learning improves when students are interested, inspired and inquisitive. It is widely believed by educators and researchers alike that learning suffers when students are bored, dispassionate or disengaged. Numerous intellectual, behavioral, emotional and physical factors play a role in the learning process, and many research studies have shown that there are connections between being motivated and interested in class and improved attendance, enhanced critical thinking, greater retention of information and increased academic performance.

One evidence-based teaching method that has been routinely proven to engage students in class is Peer Instruction. This teaching method is an interactive technique developed by Harvard Professor and Turning Technologies Distinguished Educator Dr. Eric Mazur. The Peer Instruction method is a flipped learning approach where students are exposed to course content before coming to class and spend a majority of in-class time applying what they learned by discussing a series of questions and topics with their peers. Peer instruction becomes an even more effective tool when combined with TurningPoint interactive polling and assessment software.

Here’s how it works:

1. Students listen while the instructor asks a question

2. Students think independently about their response

3. Students submit their answers via clickers or mobile response devices

4. The instructor views the results in TurningPoint

5. Students pair up with classmates whose answer is different from theirs

6. Students discuss why they choose their answer

7. Post-discussion, students answer the same question again on their clickers or mobile devices

8. The instructor views the updated results via TurningPoint​

This technique can be used during class deliberations and is a highly effective tool in getting students to think independently, listen to different opinions from their peers, and generate their own verdict about particular subject matter. In fact, Fabio Aricò, lecturer in Macroeconomics at The University of East Anglia, has had terrific success using TurningPoint for Peer Instruction and states “…Peer Instruction really works and this, in quantitative terms, is possibly the best result I’ve gained in all my analysis so far.”

Peer Instruction provides several learning benefits:

  • It forces students to put their thoughts into a cohesive manner and explain them to their peers
  • It gives students the opportunity to persuade their partner/group that their view is the right one
  • The action of students explaining the answer to their peers often helps them to understand and retain the information

Peer Instruction is a fantastic teaching method, which truly motivates and engages students and helps them to comprehend, absorb and apply important subject matter. It is even more efficient and effective when supported with TurningPoint, as the software gives the instructor the instant visual indication that their students are learning and understanding the course material, which is the key to academic success.