During the Certification in College Teaching Institute in May 2019 we discussed one way to create an effective learning environment: peer instruction. As a group, we used clicker questions as a way to engage in peer instruction and used a five-step system to understand how peer instruction could work in our classrooms.
1) Ask a question
2) Have students respond to the question individually (via clicker for example)
3) Split students into groups and have them discuss the question as a group
4) Allow the groups to change their responses based on group discussion
5) Discuss the question with the entire class
One of the most important parts about using this method of instruction is to ensure the instructor asks the right questions. We utilized the learning cycle, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and believable distractors as ways to formulate the best questions for our activity that would enhance student learning. See the artifact itself for specific examples of these.
I included an activity I used in COM340, Group and Leadership Communication as an artifact to demonstrate my competency in this area. During the pandemic, when courses were online, I tried to provide interesting and thought-provoking ways to help students learn the course materials. There were several activities throughout the semester in which students would attend. (There was an asynchronous option for those who could not attend.) In these sessions, I would walk them through course concepts by way of examples. In the artifact provided, the weekly readings focused on conflict and conflict resolution. I utilized a think-pair-share type method to discuss this prompt. I asked students to think of a resolved conflict (that they would be willing to share with others). I then had them determine individually what the root of the conflict was (from course materials). Then they were put into breakout rooms to discuss their conflicts with their peers and to discuss conflict escalation and de-escalation strategies and conflict resolution types together for each of their conflicts.
Students really seemed to enjoy the course activities. It was an easy way for them to receive points while also gaining a much better understanding of the course material. Hearing their peer's examples also helped them prepare for the exam. Applying course terms to one's own life is a great way to learn and it was very successful in this class. Students performed very well, particularly if they attended these synchronous sessions.
Participating in this section of the Teaching Institute helped me to see the importance of asking the right questions. Sometimes it is really easy to ask easy questions to get participation or to lecture the entire class. But this does not create an effective learning environment for students. By posing thought-provoking clicker questions and using the peer instruction method, students can engage with the material in a more fruitful manner.