VaNTH Engineering Research Center
Promoting Conceptual Understanding through Effective Peer Discussion in Large Classes
Using the personal response system (PRS) in large lecture classes has been suggested as one way to encourage active involvement of students in this challenging pedagogical environment. Positive correlations between PRS use and course grades have been shown, but few have attempted to determine what components of PRS use are most effective. Some factors that may contribute to the positive correlation include increased time in which students are actively applying concepts in class, increased exposure to the type of questions asked by the instructor, and peer discussion opportunities that often accompany PRS use. This study explores the impact of factors such as these. In collaboration with an experienced PRS instructor, we are studying classroom scenarios in which students respond to a PRS question, discuss the question with a peer, and then vote again. The study will track several characteristics of the peer team (gender, comfort level in discussing with peer, familiarity with peer, comfort level with material), and will determine the effectiveness of these discussions by 1) correlating group characteristics with the number of correct PRS responses and 2) listening to recorded discussion of five groups.
Olds, S.A., McKenna, A., & Pazos, P. (2007). Work in progress: Promoting conceptual understanding through effective peer discussion in large classes. Proceedings of the 37th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, T1D76–T1d8.
This work was supported primarily by the Engineering Research Centers program of the National Science Foundation under grant EEC-9876363.