Instructional Interactions

  • To encourage participation via incentives:
    • Low stakes grading incentives, in which correct and incorrect answers receive equal or very similar credit, result in more robust exchanges of reasoning and more even contribution of all members of the group to the discussion, whereas high stakes grading incentives tend to lead to dominance of the discussion by a single group member.
    • Social incentives can also impact peer discussion; randomly calling on groups to explain reasoning for an answer rather than asking for volunteers increases exchanges of reasoning during peer discussion.
  • Implementation options during peer discussion:
    • Variation in instructor behavior provides students with opportunities to engage in a range of scientific activities.
      • Instructor can stay in earshot of students but not engage with them during peer discussion to promote autonomy, and at other times may answer student questions or discuss possibilities with small groups.
      • During the discussion of the solution, the instructor may sometimes describe the solution and, alternatively, may sometimes encourage students to jointly describe and evaluate the solution.
      • Instructors can also encourage students who have low self-efficacy to engage more fully in discussions, with the potential impact of increasing their confidence and improving learning. Instructor cues that encourage students to explain their reasoning influence classroom norms and student behavior, with such prompts leading to higher quality peer discussions. Such prompts can also be valuable during learning assistant interactions with student groups.
    • Showing the histogram of responses
      • Traditional implementation of PI involves displaying the histogram of student responses after students answer individually but before peer discussion. This practice, however, may bias students toward the most common answer and reduce the value of peer discussion.
  • Implementation options during whole group discussion
    • Instructor explanation of the correct answer after peer discussion produces additional benefits. The effect of peer discussion is greater for strong students, while the impact of instructor explanation is greater for weak students.
  • The use of personal response devices does not appear to impact students learning in PI, although students may exhibit higher participation and enjoyment when using clickers compared to handraising.

Instructional Cues
Instructor Explanation & Modeling

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Cite this guide: Knight JK, Brame CJ. (2018) Evidence Based Teaching Guide: Peer Instruction. CBE Life Science Education. Retrieved from
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