Peer Instruction

Peer Instruction

Teach students, then students teach and discuss with each other to problem solve

The Subject is:

GRP223 Strategic Thinking in Design Phillip Hua – Lecturer, Graphic Design. Understanding the world that relates to visual communication and explore design thinking, decision-making, and innovation processes so that students can direct their design to meet the given criteria and business objective. This subject is about innovation, but it’s not a random process. Rather it’s a structured process that students will be hand immersed in.

The students will learn:

Develop the skills and understanding in resolving design briefs with an insight into the interconnectedness and implications of design decisions based on given business criteria. Apply creative thinking and use the appropriate tools to execute the structured ideas from going through the process of strategic process in design.

This is what it looks like (active learning):

  • Students are provided with a mixture of short lectures from the lecturer and video clips to introduce the concept of market segmentation to understand who the audience is.
  • Students then learn the next step, which is developing a “marketing persona”, a narrative of a typical audience the design problem is to focus on, such information includes name of the persona, job title, profession, age, gender, salary/household income, location, political affiliation, where do they spend their weekend etc. Building personas to understand the core audience will help improve the way design problems are solved and meet business goals, an approach that is highly regarded in the any industry.
  • Once students have created their own persona, the class comes together.
  • The lecturer shows a multiple choice question that relates to the persona, for example “profession”, ask the students to vote (using Poll Everywhere). An example of a question related to the profession can be “The profession most likely is associated to this persona is ‘Accountant’, ‘IT Networking’, ‘IT Security’, ‘IT engineer’ etc"
  • Once the students have voted, they turn to another peer who has a different answer and tries to negotiate why they have chosen a particular answer and try to change each other's mind based on their research and learning.
  • They then vote again (Figure 1) to see if there is any change in the polls.
  • This will take a few rounds where students will form a group to talk and re-negotiate what the best answer is, by changing their peer’s mind. The secret here is that students are teaching each other, using their own language to persuade and solve problems, building logic and thinking about what they are doing in order to change the other student's mind as to the best answer.
This has also been used for final design campaigns where students choose the best design solution individually by using a poll to vote. The students then work with different peers to discuss and change their peer’s mind based on their logic and what they have learnt. Again, teaching each other and providing a rationale as to their direction of choice. Students get to learn what their peer’s thinking, research, and sharing of ideas that may not surface if working on their own.
Figure 1. Students discussed amongst their peers about their choice of answer and the class votes again to see the poll change for deeper learning and understanding as they teach each other.

The effect of learning this way:

A powerful way of learning through peers – asking students to reflect, negotiate and have discussions based on what they have learnt from their research, and using their logic to change the other person’s mind, is very powerful as they share their learning with others. They also share their research to see who has the most logical data. This provides a deeper understanding as other students may not have thought of the solution in different ways and may have missed sections in their learning. When students talk amongst themselves, they are also teaching each other and using their language which is very powerful to help solve problems and retain information.

How can this be applied to other classes/student cohort?

This activity can be completed in any class by first teaching the concept or information that is required to solve a problem, especially when new language and concepts are introduced. This strategy can be applied to lecture theatres and tiered spaces, as well as collaborative flat floor spaces (see diagram 2).
Diagram 2
When students vote individually, they then discuss amongst their peers by teaching each other and using language that both can understanding before voting again. It’s exciting to see a change in the poll as they are discussing. An example of a technology used for this is “Poll Everywhere”. The steps on how to facilitate peer instruction are below.