Monday, 8 February 2010

Reflection - Peer Instruction

It has been a few days since I watched the Peer Instuction. The lessons learnt can be summarized below:

1. We should start advocating evidence-based instruction design. This is NOT news, but have educators been serious about evaluating the effectiveness of the learning design based on measurable student achievements?

2. The key to success of the peer instruction is to get the students to discuss with their peers about the answer to questions the lecturer put on. Obviously, the number of questions used per lecture is limited by time and hence directly limit on the coverage of the course.
- The choice is between cover with no understand and small cover but with deep understand.
- The quality of the learning depends on the challenges provided to the students by the questions. This is reflected in the formulation of the questions. Two inputs were used in the question formulation:current students and from previous cohorts' examination answers.

3. In the video, Mazur did not explain the effectiveness of the model answer he gave after the student discussion. I would guess it may be the assuring part for the students, its effect would be more like a re-inforcement than learning.

Areas for online compliment:
I am thinking of making this online in order to scale up and remove the limitation of time which in terms limited the coverage. For discussion, it is best to be done face to face among the students. Here is what I suggest.

Students are asked to form study groups. Study groups will be required to meet regularly with or without the supervision within set time intervals. I suggest initially it is better done in a lecture hall setting for the first meeting - similar or the same as peer instruction as described by Mazur, then the study groups will meet under supervision for the next few times. After that the students should be able to organise a mutually convenient time on their own but within the set time interval.

At a fixed time, the students are asked to read a prescribed text and post questions which they found they have problems. These will be used to formulate the questions to be used in the meetings.

Based on the input from the students and from previous cohorts, questions are formulated and put online at the beginning of the meeting time intervals.

During meetings, all the questions will be presented to the study group (via online web page) and each group can decide on the priority of the questions. This can be done within the first 5 minutes. Then the questions will be presented one by one according to the study group's priority. When a question is presented, each member of the study group must put in an answer independent - via the web page. If all the answers are the same - there is not a lot of disagreement among the member. A model answer is shown for them to check if their reasoning is in line with the expectation. If the answers for the questions are different, there is a valuable learning opportunity. It would be better to let the students spend more time on this question. Again, they are asked to discuss face to face. They should try to arrive at a mutually agreed answer. The agreed answer is then put into the web page. If the agreed answer is correct, the students should be congratulated. If not, the students are given another chance to discuss and find another mutually agreed answer. After the second mutually agreed answer is keyed in, the model answer is shown.

This structure will enable the students to focus on areas which they have problems. The articulation among the students is in accord with Laurillard's conversation model. Time is saved if the problem presented is not a problem for this group of students and allow time to use effectively for those questions with problem of understanding.

In an institutional setting, the study group should meet for a minimum time as prescribed by the course. But if the students are willing to spend more time, they can continue with the rest of the questions.

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