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Peer instruction versus class-wide discussion in large classes: a comparison of two interaction methods in the wired classroom

Nicol, David J. and Boyle, James T. (2003) Peer instruction versus class-wide discussion in large classes: a comparison of two interaction methods in the wired classroom. Studies in Higher Education, 28 (4). pp. 457-473. ISSN 0307-5079

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Abstract

Following concerns about the poor conceptual understanding shown by science students, two US research groups have been experimenting with the use of 'classroom communication systems' (CCSs) to promote dialogue in large classes. CCS technology makes it easier to give students immediate feedback on concept tests and to manage peer and class discussions. Improvements in conceptual reasoning have been shown using these methods. However, these research groups have each piloted different discussion sequences. Hence, little is known about which sequence is best and under what circumstances. This study compares the effects of each sequence on students' experiences of learning engineering in a UK university. The research methods included interviews, a survey and a critical incident questionnaire. The results demonstrated that the type of dialogue and the discussion sequence have important effects on learning. The findings are discussed in relation to social constructivist theories of learning and in relation to the implications for teaching in wired classrooms.