Magazine article AI Magazine

Educational Advances in Artificial Intelligence

Magazine article AI Magazine

Educational Advances in Artificial Intelligence

Article excerpt

The Educational Advances in Artificial Intelligence column discusses and shares innovative educational approaches that teach or leverage AI and its many subfields at all levels of education (K-12, undergraduate, and graduate levels).

Active Learning in Lecture with Peer Instruction

Have you ever been surprised by poor class performance on a midterm question, and wondered why you were met with silence each time you asked "Any questions?" during the lecture on that topic? Do your students sometimes feel like they understood everything that was said in lecture, only to go home, start the homework, and immediately get stuck? Do you find that you only really learn something when you have to explain it to others?

Peer instruction is an active learning pedagogy that addresses these challenges and opportunities. Peer instruction is easily integrated into existing course designs and meeting schedules, because the change is largely limited to modifying the manner in which "lectures" are delivered. In peer instruction classrooms, students are presented with a series of multiple-choice questions. Students first respond to a question individually (often using a "clicker" device or phone app), then discuss the question in groups of three for 3-4 minutes, then respond again. The instructor can then show students instantly tallied results histograms, ask groups to report on their discussions, and provide additional clarification or expansion of the topic in response to the class' performance on the question. These question-response-discuss-response sequences may be inserted every 5-10 minutes to punctuate a traditional lecture, or a class may consist almost entirely of peer instruction questions.

Key factors for success with peer instruction include designing discussion-provoking questions, ensuring adequate preclass preparation by administering reading quizzes, and grading participation in questions but--crucially--not correctness of the response. Of course the heart of any question-driven approach to learning is the quality of the questions. Peer instruction questions may be used to verify student understanding of what was just said in lecture, or to highlight difficult comer cases in the reading material. My favorite questions are those that anticipate the next topic of lecture. A well-crafted question of this type can light a fire of motivation within students to hear what the instructor will teach next, because they have been confronted by a scenario that illustrates the need for it and have spent several minutes grappling with the issue.

Originally developed in physics classes by Eric Mazur, a Harvard physics professor, peer instruction's strong, multidecade track record of success there (Crouch and Mazur 2013) has launched it into other disciplines and, increasingly, into computer science classrooms. Peer instruction has been successful in a variety of computer science courses including introductory programming (in a variety of languages), Data Structures, Discrete Math, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Theory of Computation, Operating Systems, Programming Languages, and Architecture. (1) Potential adopters of these materials should be encouraged by reports that adopters of materials experience success matching that of the instructor who created the materials (Lee, Garcia, and Porter 2013). …

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