Peer Instruction – Flipping the idea of flipped classrooms on its head

So in my last post, I mentioned the “simple” explanation for a flipped classroom, the lecture is done through video and the applications are done in class. After listening to a podcast on Peer Instruction on Ed Reach, I have realized just how simple my explanation was.

According to Dr. Julie Schell, their featured guest, peer instruction is also a form of a flipped classroom. Though it might not require students to watch videos at home, or do homework or projects in class, the students are required to pre-learn some material before class and be ready to discuss it during class. According to the interview, Peer Instruction requires the following six steps:

1. Brief Presentation – Dr. Schell does not think that lecture has to be completely omitted from a flipped classroom environment, and instead, thinks it has its place.

2. Pose a question that requires application. – Dr. Schell recommends that this question be meaningful so that the students care about it.

3. Students “vote” or respond to the question.

4. Students pair off with another student in the class who has an opposing opinion, and convince the other person of his point of view.

5. Go back together and talk about it as a group.

6. Closure – Dr. Schell emphasizes the importance of this so that the learning is continued after the activity. This can be a post-presentation created by students, but again, the question and topic need to be meaningful enough for the students to want to follow-up.

After looking at this format, it does seem like it fits the bill for the flipped classroom, and is simply another method of in-class application of material. Dr. Schell also expressed the importance of making sure the methods fit the material. This makes perfect sense to me. After all, teaching methods, regardless of what they are, are tools for helping students learn. If the method is not appropriate to the material, then it is probably not the best method to choose. Dr. Schell stressed this, and I agree, incorporating diverse teaching methods keeps the classroom interesting and forces students to learn in different ways. I certainly felt this podcast was helpful to me, and highly recommend listening to it.

Click here to listen to the podcast referenced above.

After listening to this podcast, I am unsure that I would give just a traditional audio podcast to my students. I found myself getting easily distracted with only just listening when at home, and I feel like just giving a podcast will create barriers for visual learners. As I am planning to teach elementary school, however, I might to use one as a way build listening skills. Or I might use one as part of a treasure hunt.