Learning by doing: peer learning and Academ’Quiz

According to Edith Cowan University in Australia, peer learning “is the process of students learning with and from each other. This is usually facilitated through teaching and learning activities such as student–led workshops, study groups, peer-to-peer learning partnerships, and group work”. Peer learning has some benefits, such as development of student collaboration and communication skills, enhancement of student confidence and the ability to take control of their own learning (Ramsden, 1992; Biggs, 2003). As you may well have observed in your classroom, many students feel more comfortable working with their peers, than in a teacher-led environment. According to David Boud at Stanford, “Students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers. […] Peer learning is becoming an increasingly important part of many courses, and it is being used in a variety of contexts and disciplines in many countries”. Through peer learning, students interact with one another to attain educational goals, and this allows students to work through new concepts and material with other individuals engaged in the same work. This educational practice provides the students with opportunities to teach and to be taught by one another, expanding their perspectives and fostering meaningful connections.

Contrary to traditional teaching methods that are vertical, peer learning makes the students take responsibility for their own learning and gives them more confidence in their ability to learn and to use concepts. Moreover, it gives an opportunity to the students to learn how to learn. When becoming a teacher, did you not sometimes thought that you would have better performed during your studies if you had understood at the time your teachers’ expectations and how they conceived their courses? With peer learning activities, you can offer your students the opportunity to take the fast track in their understanding of how studying works better if you are yourself able to explain notions and/or solutions to complex questions to others. Explaining to others usually helps clarify your own mind, and then to better remember what you have studied and explained.

In a way, talking about peer learning strategies is more thinking about the learning process than focusing on the teaching model. As preconized by Eric Mazur in his 1997 book « Peer Instructions: A User’s Manual », you should organize questions around one concept and gently guide the students to answer them. Sometimes, too big questions around difficult concepts can be challenging to process. It is perhaps better to ask the students to answer several short, less challenging questions to guide them towards the core of the concept, like following a gentle progressive learning path. In that sense, Academ’Quiz can also assist to develop peer learning strategies in your classroom.

In Academ’Quiz, students can create questions and pedagogical notices on the courses registered in their game sessions. When a student creates a question and/or a pedagogical notice, the teacher in charge of the course reviews the student’s proposal in the back office. The teacher can accept the question as it is, add some corrections, or decline the question if it is not good enough or not relevant in this course. If the question is validated, the student wins some points, and the question is added to the game – all the students thus play with questions created by the teacher but also with questions created by other students and validated by teachers. Several interesting learning incentives are underlying this functionality.

Creating questions for a course leads students to use the course content and to revise by creating questions. Additionally, when creating questions, students can also work on additional resources or deepen their approach of some points in the course that you had not really developed but just suggested.

If the student’s question is validated, more points are won, but the student also gains one advantage if the question appears during a duel against another student. There are also game-related incentives to revise your courses and deepen your knowledge by creating questions in the Academ’Quiz.

Furthermore, students tend to discuss their questions with their teachers before submitting them in Academ’Quiz, and this prompts more exchanges on the content of the course between teachers and students who are then considered as co-creators of the content. This tends to give more confidence to the students, even more when they realize that they can sometimes also teach something to their teachers, that acquiring knowledge can be a shared, horizontal, cooperative experience, rather than a vertical, hierarchical one-way process.

Peer learning can also be entirely something else in Academ’Quiz. We have seen our students trying to answer questions together, several students leaned over a smartphone screen, discussing heatedly and urgently the possible answers before the end of the timer. This cooperative spirit can be even more developed when you create game sessions with tribes in Academ’Quiz, when students are part of a team. Tribes playing is great to favor a good team spirit, students performing better in some courses helping others to answer questions when it’s their turn to play. Sure, they can lose the duel at the end, but their teammate level is then higher and this is a great way for them to work with the strengths and weaknesses of the members of their team.

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