Peer Discussions Improve Student Learning

Tullis, J. G. & Goldstone, R. L.  (2023). Peer Discussions Improve Student Learning. In C. E. Overson, C. M.  Hakala, L. L. Kordonowy, & V. A. Benassi (Eds.), In their own words: What scholars and teachers want you to know about why and how to apply the science of learning in your academic setting (pp. 465-473). Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

In our research, we examined whether and why peer instruction benefits learning in undergraduate and graduate psychology classes. Students’ answers following discussion are typically more accurate than their answers before discussion. However, one concern with using peer instruction is that the more knowledgeable partner just tells the less knowledgeable student what the correct answer is. This kind of direct transmission of knowledge from the more knowledgeable student to the less knowledgeable student may involve shallow learning and not produce long-lasting learning benefits. Alternatively, peer instruction may prompt students to actively engage with each other to test ideas and yield a new understanding that neither student possessed prior to their interaction. We tested whether peer instruction encourages knowledge transmission or knowledge generation by assessing students’ answers and their confidence in their answers before and after discussion. More specifically, we analyzed whether students just choose the answer of the more confident partner during discussion or whether the discussion between the partners generates novel information.

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