Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My method of using "Peer Instruction" for my WSQ chats

As I've blogged about several times before, my focus this year is on having different activities for the students to participate for the discussion part of the WSQ chat.  The old "discuss your summary questions" or "discuss your notes" just wasn't cutting it anymore.  I found my students needed some sort of objective and goal that they could be held accountable for and show proof of their participation and focus.

So, I decided to try out a form of Peer Instruction after learning about it on the #flipcon13 virtual conference.

Here is what I do:

1.  Choose a problem (or problems, usually 2-3 max since this is just a first 10-15 minute of class activity) that assesses a key concept from the previous night's lesson.  I do this on Kuta Software so I can have multiple choice answers.  I usually have several to choose from and then based on the WSQ responses the night before will pick a few that address some misconceptions.

2. Put JUST the problem on the screen and give the students a time limit (usually 2-3 minutes) to solve the problem individually.

3. Uncover the multiple choice answers and give the students about 30 more seconds to decide on an answer.  If their answer is not up there, they are to choose "E".

4. Take a class vote for each answer. I call out the answers and students raise their hands for A,B,C,D or E.

5. The next step depends on how the class voted.

a) If all but 2-3 students got the correct answer, those students are instructed to put a ** by their problem and after the Peer Instruction they will come to the Small Group U in my class and go over it with me.

b) If at least 10 students got the wrong answer or chose "E" (usually it's "E"), I have all the students who got the correct answer STAND  UP and find someone who is SITTING DOWN to help and explain the problem to.  Once that person understands and figures it out, they STAND UP as well and see if there is anyone else sitting down.  This continues for about 1-3 minutes or until everyone is standing.

6.  Students go back to their seats and we do the next problem.

So far I am really happy with how this is going in one of my classes and pretty happy as it's improving in my other two classes.  I love to see students helping their peers and explaining the problem, and it holds every student accountable for attempting the problem on their own and committing to an answer first.  I think it's a great self-evaluation tool for students to understand where they are at and a great tool for me to quickly see who is struggling.

I also love the collaboration that happens and the excitement of "talking about math" that occurs once we get to step 5b.  Everyone is actively engaged in either explaining the problem or in finding help for the problem.

I could see myself using this as a longer part of class period for some lessons; instead of students working on their PQ work by themselves or in groups at their own pace, they would work thru them in a peer instruction manner.


  1. I have had a lot of success with peer instruction in the math classroom. I am glad to see that you are having good results too. It is a great way to engage the students more in the learning process and improve student learning.
    Jon Bergmann posted an interview on his "The Flip Side with Jon Bergmann" radio show dealing with peer instruction yesterday.

    1. Hi Troy,
      Thanks so much for commenting. I was so happy to learn about the process this summer and give it a try. I'm subsribed to Jon's podcast so I will definitely check it out soon :)

      Thanks again!


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