Benefits, Definitions and Underpinnings
Peer discussion is the exchange of ideas among students in the class, typically in small groups. Instructors and TAs may or may not interact with individual groups during the discussion.
Positive interdependence occurs when students perceive that individual success is enhanced by the success of other group members and the group as a whole.
Promotive interaction occurs when individuals help other group members’ efforts to achieve group goals.
Cooperative learning is group work in which students collaborate on shared tasks, often while playing distinct roles, to reach shared learning goals that are defined by the instructor.
• Student response to PI is generally positive. Students report that it helps them learn course material and that the immediate feedback it provides is valuable.
• Peer discussion is an important component in promoting students to change their conceptual understanding.
• Instructor explanation provides students with feedback and increased confidence in their understanding.
• Both high-performing and low-performing students show learning gains from peer instruction. However, some evidence indicates less benefit for students with lower self-efficacy, or confidence in their ability to complete the tasks of the course. These observations suggest a need for instructional approaches that build mastery.
• Peer instruction (PI) is a form of cooperative learning, which has been shown to increase student achievement, persistence, and attitudes toward science. It provides opportunities for individual action, positive interdependence, promotive interaction and group processing, elements that social interdependence theory posits promote learning. As with many types of informal cooperative learning, peer instruction provides opportunities for formative assessment with immediate feedback.
• PI explicitly incorporates opportunities for students to explain their reasoning and engage in argumentation, practices that helps students integrate new information with existing knowledge, allowing revision of students’ mental models.
• PI also incorporates opportunities for students to be metacognitive: reflecting on whether they answered a question correctly, or guessed, or if they have a question about a component. All of these are regulative processes which have been shown to promote learning.