The history of Tutorials at CU Boulder

by Stephanie Chasteen on June 15, 2015

I’ve got a new short video to share, focusing on the history of Tutorials at CU, featuring our own Steven Pollock:

This is part of some work I’ve been doing for PhysPort.org, which makes evidence-based resources available for physics instructors. All videos for the project, including our short introduction to Tutorials, can be found on the YouTube playlist.

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Confused about what the literature recommends for best use of clickers? Want to have all the information summarized and synthesized for you in a nice, trustworthy reference? Well, I’ve certainly been hungry for such a reference, and now we have it: A team of scholars in chemistry education have just published a very comprehensive review across all the STEM fields,  Research-Based Implementation of Peer Instruction: A literature Review. I will outline the results from this paper in this month’s post (focused on the data supporting the use of Peer Instruction) and next month (where we’ll look at the data on effective use).

Peer instruction is the recommended use of clickers, following the following cycle:

  • Instructor lectures for a short time
  • Students vote individually using a clicker or other mechanism
  • Students discuss the question together (if the majority didn’t get it right)
  • The instructor explains the answer and holds a class discussion

Here are the key questions addressed about the efficacy of peer instruction (PI) in this review.

1. Does Peer Instruction help students learn?
Yup, it sure does, but we knew that before from a wide variety of studies. Students perform better on conceptual tests of their learning and course exams. The data summarized in this review may be useful for those who need to justify their use of PI to administrators or others.

2. Does Peer Instruction improve problem-solving skills?
Fewer studies have been done in this area, but the answer seems to be yes, especially in terms of improving students ability to generalize their knowledge, through applying material to novel problems.

3. Does Peer Instruction reduce dropout rates?
Again, the answer appears to be yes; 3 studies in physics and computer science have found dropout rates reduced by 15-50% in courses using PI.

4. What do students think of peer instruction?
Here, the results are a bit more nuanced. Overall, the answer is that they like it; many students have shown that students feel that PI helps them learn, and students feel more self-confident in courses using PI. However, student course evaluation results are mixed, with some studies reporting no difference and some a positive change. Some studies have reported a negative response to PI, including one that found more mixed responses among students who are majors in the discipline. However, students generally recommend the use of PI.

5 . Does the type of question used matter to the results?
Higher-order questions (beyond simple recall) are assumed to be more beneficial, since they give students something meaningful to discuss and can lead to conceptual change (rather than just reinforcing facts). Some studies have tested this assumption, and have found that students improve most on questions that test higher-order skills, or for questions on which most students don’t initially get the right answer.

6. Are clickers necessary?
Some instructors use electronic “clickers” to collect student votes, and others use flash cards or other system. Two studies have shown similar learning gains in classes using either method. However, one study suggested higher learning outcomes with clickers compared to flash cards. More research is needed in this area, however. Anyone need a research project?

Stay tuned next month for the results on how to use Peer Instruction!
Full reference:
Research-Based Implementation of Peer Instruction: A literature Review. T. Vickrey, K. Rosploch, R. Rahmanian, M. Pilarz, and M. Stains. CBE Life Sciences Education, 14(1), March 2015.

Reposted from my article on the iclicker blog.

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NSF 2015 Teaching and Learning video showcase – going on now!

May 11, 2015

This week there’s a great opportunity to learn more about lots and lots of NSF-funded STEM education projects.  Check out this showcase of more than 100 videos. The videos offer a 3-minute glance into the variety of innovative work being funded by the National Science Foundation in education. http://resourcecenters2015.videohall.com You can do stuff during this week: […]

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Free Webinar: ClickerStarter for College Faculty

April 28, 2015

I’m giving another free webinar for i>clicker next Tuesday, May 5th, at 3pm ET.  This is called “ClickerStarter for College Faculty” and is intended as a quick primer on the effective use of clickers for those who want an overview of the benefits and best uses of clickers. Have you heard about using clickers in class, […]

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Reacting to their votes: Instructor agility

April 10, 2015

You don’t know how your students will vote on a clicker question, but you can anticipate and prepare yourself for the likely outcomes. It’s really important to use a clicker system which lets you have a sneak-preview of student responses – as i>clicker does, shown below. This lets you “hold back” the histogram from students […]

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New meta-analysis: Active learning improves student performance

March 27, 2015

It’s not quite so new anymore, but still exciting! While we have more and more data that active learning techniques improve student learning, this field has been sorely needing a systematic review of the evidence on active learning. Recently, a crackerjack team of education researchers stepped up to the plate with just what I’ve been […]

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Tutorials in Introductory Physics at CU

March 24, 2015

I just finished a short video on the use of Tutorials in Introductory Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, and wanted to share it with you all.  It gives a good overview of Tutorials and why you would want to use them. You can find out more about Tutorials here. Here is a link […]

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Using clickers in small classes

March 14, 2015

As more instructors are trying clickers and peer instruction in their courses, I get more questions about how to use them in small classes. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned through talking with faculty who teach courses of various sizes. The first question I ask is, “what do you mean by small?” […]

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Student motivation to engage with clicker questions

February 27, 2015

I’ve been doing a lot of reading in the educational psychology literature lately, to better understand what the learning sciences has to tell us about student motivation – and how that might relate to what we should do as instructors to motivate students to engage in clicker questions. I wanted to share what I’ve found […]

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Learn the latest advances in physics education… from your living room

January 22, 2015

I’m excited to announce that the New Faculty Workshop videos are online! https://www.physport.org/nfw This is a project that I helped with, doing the filming and editing of the presentations.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, the Workshop for New Faculty in Physics and Astronomy is a 3-day workshop for new faculty in physics and […]

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Videos on scientific teaching

January 9, 2015

I wanted to make a pitch for a very nice set of videos on research-based teaching methods:  the  iBiology Scientific Teaching Series.  This is a series of videos about Active Learning in undergraduate biology education, but is applicable across STEM.  They are looking to publicize their videos, and get feedback! From the producers:   The videos include […]

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Feedback codes: Giving student feedback while maintaining sanity

January 5, 2015

One of the most important things in learning is timely, targeted feedback.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that in order to learn to do something well, we need someone to tell us… Specifically, what we can do to improve Soon after we’ve completed the task. Unfortunately, most feedback that students receive is too general […]

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Learning, and assessing, collaboratively: Group Exams

December 29, 2014

I am one of many who are convinced that people learn better in collaboration with others.  However, there’s always this somewhat disturbing schizophrenia when it comes to assessment — we spend all this time emphasizing group work and collaboration, but come exam time — it’s everyone for him or herself. So I was very excited […]

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Free webinar, December 11th: ClickerStarter

December 5, 2014

I’m giving another free webinar for i>clicker this coming Thursday, December 11th, at 10 am ET (7 am PT).  This is called “ClickerStarter for College Faculty” and is intended as a quick primer on the effective use of clickers for those who want an overview of the benefits and uses of clickers. Have you heard […]

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Clicker Q&A

December 4, 2014

As some teachers are just getting things rolling with clickers and peer instruction for the Spring, I thought I would share some questions that faculty have asked me about clickers and peer instruction. This is something I’ve added recently to my workshops, and am really liking it – I ask participants to share their questions in advance, […]

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Why NOT to grade clicker questions for correctness

November 15, 2014

One thing that faculty really struggle with is whether or not, and how much, to give students credit for their clicker question answers. You want to give students some incentive to participate, but grading opens a whole can of worms. One of my faculty workshop participants explained the dilemma very astutely: “If I do not […]

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Measuring and improving students’ engagement

November 2, 2014

I’ve been working over the last year or so to better understand how to promote student buy-in to interactive techniques such as clickers and group work.  That work resulted in a set of resources on how to “frame” students’ roles in the class, especially in the first week. Now I’ve been delving deeper into this […]

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What is effective feedback? And how do clickers provide it?

October 2, 2014

Another re-post from my work on the iclicker blog. Last time I wrote about how clicker questions fit into a theoretical framework of assessment, and some considerations for aligning your clicker questions with your goals for your course. This week I want to review some of the literature on what features and kinds of feedback are most […]

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Backwards design: Where clicker questions fit into a framework of assessment

September 14, 2014

This is a repost of my work on the iclicker blog.   Lately, I’ve been thinking about the purpose and approach that we take in various forms of assessment. Today I’d like to step back into a little bit of theory-land, and consider a broader framework of assessment, and the ways that clickers fit into […]

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Using clickers in social sciences and humanities: No-one-right answer questions

September 4, 2014

This is a re-post from my work on the iclicker blog. There are lots of different types of clicker questions you can draw from (see last post for some examples), but there’s a clear distinction between two types of questions: Questions that have a right answer vs. Questions that don’t have a right answer Questions that […]

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