Peer Instruction / Discussion


What is Peer Instruction?

Peer instruction is a learning strategy that can be used in the classroom to improve learning. It was developed by Eric Mazur, a endowed professor of Physics at Harvard University, and has over a decade of evidence indicating that it can increase learning gains during a course (using a pre-test vs. post-test model) by three to four fold (Crouch & Mazur, 2001). In peer instruction, class time is spent focused on learning major concepts using mini-lectures, preceded or followed by challenging questions (e.g. USMLE-style case-based vignette questions in a medical curriculum) delivered using an Classroom Response System. Students are asked to vote on their own. Once votes are collected, they are asked to turn to their neighbors & convince them that they have the correct answer. After 3-4 minutes of "peer instruction (discussion)", each student votes a 2nd time, after which a histogram is displayed. If there is less than unanimous agreement, this creates a "teachable moment" when a class discussion can follow, where students are asked to explain the basis for selecting a particular (wrong) answer. This helps to both reveal and correct any misconceptions held by students. The reasons peer instruction works seem to include:

  • it allows time for students to think more deeply about a topic in class, instead of transcribing notes
  • it causes them to explain their reasoning about a problem to their peers, in their own language. When you teach, you learn.



  1. Peer Instruction: Engaging Students One-on-One, All at Once
    CH Crouch, J Watkins, AP Fagen, E Mazur: Research-Based Reform of University Physics, 1 (1) 2007
    (This is a thorough article that covers techniques of peer instruction, design principles & best practices
    with supporting data.)
  2. Crouch CH and Mazur E: Peer instruction: ten years of experience and results. Am J Physics 69:970-977, 2001



  1. Cortright RN, Collins HL, DiCarlo SE: Peer instruction enhanced meaningful learning: ability to solve novel problems. Adv Physiol Educ 29: 107-111, 2005.
  2. CU Boulder Researchers Show Why Peer Discussion Improves Student Performance
    See also Science 323: 122-124, 2009
  3. Fagen AP, Crouch CH, Mazur E: Peer Instruction: results from a range of classrooms. Physics Teacher 40:206-209, 2002.
  4. Hake RR: Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: a six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. Am J Phys 66(1):64-74, 1998.
  5. Mazur E: Farewell Lecture? Science 323: 50-51, 2009.
  6. Peer Instruction Enhances Student Performance on Quizzes
    Giuliodori, MJ, Lujan HL, DiCarlo SE: Peer Instruction Enhanced Student Performance on Qualitative Problem-Solving Questions. Adv Physiol Educ 30:168-173, 2006.
  7. Rao SP, DiCarlo SE: Peer instruction improves performance on quizzes. Adv Physiol Educ 24: 51-55, 2000.


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