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#16 - Deepen and strengthen understanding with peer learning loops

  1. In conventional lectures, students can become cognitively inactive, taking information in but not processing to to develop understanding.
  2. The teacher shouldn't have to do all of the work, struggling to achieve sufficient curriculum coverage and at the same time ensuring that students work on their understanding. Whole-class discussion, interspersed amongst sections of teacher monologue, is known to be counterproductive, causing many students to disengage further.
  3. Peer-learning is a much more effective approach, if structured carefully. The method described below is a proven approach, simple to implement, especially using tools like Vevox.
Solution overview

A simple but effective technique for deepening student understanding by getting them to explain and explore topics together. Ask a reasonably difficult or provocative question (you can do this as an interactive Vevox slide in PowerPoint). Then get the students to discuss the reasons for their answers, preferably with a partner who disagrees. Ask them the same question again (repoll in Vevox), and see how the response has changed. You could get students to share what they have learned with the whole class. Then tell them what you think the answer is, and explain it (perhaps addressing some of the misunderstandings that lead to people getting it wrong). By comparing before and after, you have a clear measure of learning gain.

  1. Follow the link to Vevox in the tools section below for comprehensive guidance and support in using Vevox.
  2. You will need a Vevox account for this. You can get a free account for groups up to 100, but with limited functionality. Or you may be able to get a fully licensed account from the Academic Technology team.
  3. You then need to decide if you will embed the questions into PowerPoint using the Vevox add-in (Windows only), or use the browser-based interface. Design your questions so that they will prompt discussion amongst the students. You want the questions to be sufficiently difficult, but not too difficult, and to demand that the students explain their answers to each other. The pedagogic-power is in the explaining and the student's critical exploration of each other's answers.
  4. Don't over-do the questions, use them sparingly and effectively.
  5. Create your questions in a Vevox meeting, and run them in your session.
  6. As the students respond, you all get to see their responses on the main screen, and can respond appropriately. You might want to ask them the question a second time. If using Vevox in PowerPoint, you can add comparison slides, showing on one chart the progress the whole group is making towards better understanding (hopefully).
  7. You can review the student responses after the lecture, to check the group's understanding.