On 2nd November, Turning Technologies visited the University of York for a knowledge sharing event around our use of ResponseWare tools for in-class polling and quizzing.
Staff were invited to attend an event over lunch, during which the guest speaker, Professor Simon Lancaster from the University of East Anglia, presented a session on peer-instruction pedagogy and question design for in-class polling.
The Value of Peer Instruction
Drawing upon the foundation of the peer-instruction workflow championed by Eric Mazur, Professor Lancaster invited attendees to reflect upon the very nature and purpose of the lecture within the present higher education landscape. In a sector where online flipped classroom models and the prevalence of lecture capture across institutions now allow for course content to be ‘front-loaded’ through a multitude of delivery methods, Lancaster considered how class-time can be utilised for active learning exercises.
The Importance of the Question
Professor Lancaster thus returned to highlight the disconnect between A-Level and higher education models of learning. He highlighted the fact that many students who have previously excelled in examinations through memory-based learning strategies prior to the commencement of their University studies can often struggle to transition towards analytical learning and critical evaluation.
As such, he concluded that the challenge therefore falls upon educators to design and embed questions into lectures which encourage students to engage in analytical thinking. Lancaster explained that the introduction of challenging quesions (not too easy or too hard to respond to) which lead to a split in participant responses (which he referred to as the ‘Goldilocks Zone’) can create a context where debate is engendered between peers. Using the Turning Point software and ResponseWare platform, Lancaster demonstrated how one can run an anonymised poll in-class, ask a cohort to discuss their answers with a neighbour who answered differently to themselves, and then repeat the poll before revealing the answer.
The result, as Professor Lancaster demonstrated with the participation of the room, was that the peer-to-peer interaction between each conducted poll resulted in a shift in the way that attendees answered the question – in this case, resulting in more participants answering the question correctly the second time around.
This, Lancaster claims, is proof-positive of the pedagogy, in that it demonstrates the power of peer instruction and the benefit of designing engaging questions. He also commented on the rewarding nature of this manner of learning, in that students who engage with it can often come to have a strong investment in the actual answer to a given question – a feat that is more likely to occur when a learner has interacted in a problem-solving process prior to an instructor revealing the ‘prestige’ of the answer.
For those who did not attend but would like to explore the full content of Professor Lancaster’s session, a full capture of the lecture can be viewed here.