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Peer Instruction Using Clickers

Overview of Using Clickers in the Classroom

Peer Instruction(PI) is an active learning strategy pioneered by Dr. Eric Mazur, professor of physics at Harvard University. Peer instruction requires students to prepare for class by reading or watching a video. In class, students are presented with carefully constructed questions and asked to discuss with peers the possible solutions. During the discussion phase, the instructor interacts with the small groups, asking further questions to direct critical thinking as the discussion progresses. Classroom response systems(clickers) are utilized to display student responses in real-time to the class. With the feedback provided by the students through the clickers, the instructor may either redirect learners with further questions or determine that the learning objective has been met, summarize the findings, and move on to the next concept.  This teaching strategy needs to be paired with flipped classroom techniques or Just-in-Time-Teaching so that students arrive at class prepared for discussion. 

Potential for Learning

Peer Instruction was designed to promote long-term retention and deep understanding of difficult concepts rather than rote memorization of poorly understood content. The format promotes critical thinking by focusing student attention on underlying concepts and asking students to apply reasoning via active problem solving. Students engage in a process of self-assessment of their understanding as they work with partners or small groups to discuss possible solutions. In their study Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results, Crouch and Mazur (2001) concluded the following:

...upon first implementing Peer Instruction, our students’ scores on the Force Concept Inventory and the Mechanics Baseline Test improved dramatically, and their performance on traditional quantitative problems improved as well. Subsequent improvements to our implementation, designed to help students learn more from pre-class reading and to increase student engagement in the discussion sections, are accompanied by further increases in student understanding. (p. 975) Read the entire study.

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