Friday, January 31, 2014

Peer Instruction Improves Student Learning

After twenty plus years of teaching and trying many different things to improve student learning, I just finished my second year (4th semester) of using the Peer Instruction Flipped Learning model.  The traditional flip helped my students learn more and do better on their assessments than lecture ever did, but the peer instruction flipped learning model has outperformed all other learning models that I have tried and really helped my students excel in mathematics.  I have used common assessments for many years here in my school, so I am able to concretely compare my lecture results, to the traditional flipped learning results, to my peer instruction flipped learning results.

Peer Instruction is where the students still learn the material before class which, for me, means the students are watching my video lessons before class. When the students come to class, I have two to four questions up on the board related to the video lesson they just watched.  Students sit down and answer, or try to answer, the questions without talking with anyone, but students may use their notes frp, the video lesson.  Once students have answered the questions, then they turn to their neighbor and discuss their answer with them.  If they disagree on the answer, they try to convince each other of their answer.  During this process students are discussing/arguing/debating mathematics in my room and getting at their thinking and reasons for their answer.  All the student discussions are great.  I love hearing students deeply engaged in discussions.  They are also emotionally engaged in the learning process since they trying to defend their answers or wondering if they are right.

I look at proficiencies (number of students at or above 80% on tests and finals) in gauging student learning.  When I switched from lecture to the traditional flipped classroom, my Calculus proficiencies rose 3.4% and Pre-Calculus rose 6.5%.  Two years ago (four semesters) I switched to the peer instruction flipped learning model.  My four semester average of peer instruction of Calculus proficiencies rose to 84.9% (a 13.6% increase), Pre-Calculus rose to 85.5 % (an 11.3% increase), and Algebra 2 rose to 95.7% (12.8%).  These four semester averages of peer instruction are great validation for me that students are learning more.  
I just finished my most successful semester yet.  I had great connections with students (see “Relationships Matter in Learning, Jan 16th 2014” blog post) and really good proficiencies.  My proficiencies just from this fall are:
  • Calculus: 89.0% (a 17.7% increase compared to lecture)
  • Pre-Calculus: 86.6% (a 12.4% increase compared to lecture)
  • Algebra 2: 98% (a 15.1% increase compared to lecture)

Note: I am missing Algebra 2 Traditional Flip compared to lecture due to having a yearlong student teacher during that time and I did not feel I could use his results.  Interested in learning about my  former, amazing student teacher who is now on staff with me? Visit and see his textbook free, open source statistics curriculum.

I cannot say for sure why this last semester was so good in regard to student learning, but I had  developed really good relationships with all my students.  It is possible that those good relationships made the difference.  It is possible it was just the group of students I had.  
The peer instruction process is effective by itself, but if you couple that with the relationships that develop in the flipped environment, the Peer Instruction Flipped Learning model is a very powerful model.  I would encourage you to try the Peer Instruction Flipped Learning model.  To learn more about how I use peer instruction in my room visit and click on Peer Instruction.

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