Passing Down the Torch

Jordan T. Nicodemus 
Principal – I
Ricardo V. Adriano Elementary School

Most teachers would definitely approve that getting students to think critically is a primary goal in any college course. That said, how does one go about attaining it? Research has explored the concept of bolstering the time-honored school tradition mainstay – the lecture – with peer-teaching activities (Goto & Schneider 2010; Whitman & Fife, 1988; Cuseo, 1997). The results indicate that such activities can be very efficient in getting students to engage in critical thinking; thus, producing deeper learning outcomes.

Students who work in groups perform better on tests, particularly with regards to reasoning and critical thinking abilities (Lord, 2001). Having students work with each other is a very effective procedure because it forces students to be active, non-passive learners and to talk through course concepts using their own words. There are many varieties on how peer teaching can be utilized to enhance learning. Think-Pair-Share: After giving a question (particularly a complicated one), allow the students have a couple of minutes to think about it, even jot down notes, after which you have them pair up for a quick discussion about what they thought and why. After giving enough time for a chat, ask their respective partners to communicate their insights with the entire section. This strategy is helpful in involving students in a more motivated, meaningful way.

Think-pair-share allots time to think about the answer to a question and to discuss it with a partner, before suggesting an answer or solution to the entire class. Irrespective of whether the result ends up being shared in bigger class discussion, the process often leads to a deeper, more thorough thinking on the part of each learner.

Peer Instruction Using Clickers: One well-researched peer instruction model (Simon et. al, 2010) includes both group and individual work. Learners are assigned a reading prior to class and then quizzed on one or two of the more challenging or complex items using “clickers” to submit their answers. Students then form their own group, discuss the quiz question, and submit again their group answer. Instructors can then immediately see where elucidation is needed based on what the groups struggled with, or when they overwhelmingly selected an incorrect answer.

Reciprocal Peer Tutoring: Give students enough time in class to pair up in an in-class tutor/tutee relationship, taking turns between being the tutee and the tutor. They will be beneficial in two ways: 1) from explaining their own personal knowledge of the material to another and, 2) from hearing the other explain, from their understanding or point of view, the same material. In this peer style, students spend time summarizing information, evaluating the work or ideas of a peer, and clarifying rationales – all meaningful events that promote critical thinking and long-term retention of learned information. This type of peer instruction is associated with the advancement of critical thinking skills as well as understanding of multifaceted scientific concepts (Griffin & Griffin, 1997; Goto & Schneider, 2010).

Use Top-Performing Students as Assistants: Recruit learners who have achieved well in a previous unit/grading period to serve as assistants for the next. Research shows that students gain the most out of a study or discussion assembly when that group stays on task. Having them roaming the classroom floor and randomly participating in small group discussions, or leading study assemblies outside of class, helps guarantee more time spent on task. In addition, it makes more people readily available from whom individual students may turn for assistance. (Fingerson & Culley, 2001).

Brilliant teachers don’t necessarily have to do all the teaching, talking, solving and demonstrating inside the classroom. They are so innovative, that they have the ability to share even their instructional skills to their learners, thus producing even more excellent mentors in the process.