Are you tired of the same old lectures where students nod off or doodle in their notebooks or phones? Do you dream of a classroom where engagement is high and learning is dynamic? Well, enter Peer Instruction, a game-changing teaching method pioneered by physicist Eric Mazur, transforming classrooms worldwide.

So, what exactly is Peer Instruction, and how does it work? Let’s break it down into bite-sized pieces.

1. Understanding the basics of Peer Instruction

Peer Instruction flips the traditional classroom model on its head. Instead of the teacher being the sole provider of knowledge, students actively participate in their learning. It’s all about fostering peer-to-peer interaction, discussion, and critical thinking.

Join a 90 minute workshop on Friday 24th May at 10.30am to learn more about incorporating Peer Instruction in your teaching. Register here.

2. Developing questions

At the heart of Peer Instruction are thought-provoking questions designed to challenge students’ understanding of key concepts. These questions should be carefully crafted to encourage deep thinking and spark debate among students.

Think beyond simple recall questions – aim for queries that require analysis, evaluation, and application of knowledge.

Simpson’s Paradox example question – Is someone more likely to survive if they are a smoker?
    • What mistakes do students typically make? Check past tests, exams, or observed common student misconceptions.
    • Questions that require some thought, not just plugging in some numbers.
    • Multiple choice: provide seemingly plausible incorrect answers. Ideally, incorrect answers should reflect students’ common misconceptions.
    • Open-ended questions are possible, but students must align their answers with multiple-choice options.
    • Not too easy, not too difficult.
When designing questions, choose the most common misconceptions.
Students vote on an answer using their phones by scanning a QR code. In the old days, clickers were used.

3. The sequence of activities

Here’s how a typical peer instruction question unfolds:

Concept introductionIntroduce the concept or topic you’ll explore.
Pre-assessment (part 1)Pose a question related to the topic to gauge students’ initial understanding. This could be done using QR code technology.
Peer discussionStudents are then given time to discuss the question with their peers. Encourage lively debate and the exchange of ideas.
Re-assessment (part 2)After the discussion, ask the same question again to see if students’ understanding has evolved.
Teacher explanationFinally, the teacher provides clarification, addresses misconceptions, and reinforces key concepts based on the discussion and responses.

Watch the inventor himself, Eric Mazur, demonstrating peer instruction in action in this 5 minute video.

3 more ways I enhance the lecture

  1. Acknowledging the significance of each instructional moment as the theatre fills up, I introduce students to the week’s material through a repeated loop of five lecture notes slides, enhanced by cheerful music. View example pre-lecture slides.
  2. I play music while students are engaged in peer discussions – the intensity of the music is proportional to the challenging problem.
  3. I walk around with a tablet displaying hints to the discussed problem, chatting to students non-intrusively.

4. Impact on student learning

Peer Instruction deeply engages students and enhances learning. By actively participating in discussions and grappling with challenging questions, students learn from their peers and reinforce their understanding.

Research has shown that Peer Instruction leads to higher retention of material, improved problem-solving skills, and greater overall satisfaction with the learning experience, as reported by Crouch and Mazur (2001).

The Galton board demo always captivates the audience. After linking theory to the bead’s behaviour, let’s pause for a selfie.

Engagement and attendance in Introductory Statistics lectures (STAT1170 & FOSE1015)

Introductory Statistics is a core unit in the Bachelor of Science and in a diverse range of majors including Medical Sciences, Clinical Science, Information Technology, Cyber Security, Engineering and Biotechnology, among many other disciplines.

Students’ lack of engagement towards some discussions and abstract concepts led me to develop tightly structured and dynamic lectures with the Peer Instruction format.

Student feedback and lecture attendance

In S2 2023, student representatives in Introductory Statistics ran their own survey, and for the question, “How would you rate the quality of the lectures in conveying theoretical concepts and principles of statistics?” 58% and 40% responded with 5 and 4, respectively (on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent and n=36). By week 5 of session, lecture attendance was above 120 students (out of 700 internal students), twice as many as the previous year (data derived from the surveyed student sample size in a collaborative Excel exercise).

In S1 2024, further Peer Instruction enhancements kept attendance at levels not seen in the post-COVID-19 era. The participation in live lectures was 500, 460, 380, 300, and 200 attendances over the first five weeks (out of 700+ students), and approximately 190 students consistently joined the synchronous online stream.

Throughout four weeks of surveying, students expressed high satisfaction with the Peer Instruction format. The data revealed that 97%, 96%, 98%, and 94% of students reported benefiting from peer instruction in comprehending the weekly lecture material.

Students e-mail comments in S1 2024:

By the way, personally I do enjoy learning from you in lectures, particularly the first stimulating and interesting question which at least enables us to warm up our minds before theories and numbers.

I will attempt to attend the live lectures in the Lotus Theatre and try to become a bit more engaged with the subject. I can see you are honestly attempting to make Maths not boring! So well done!

Peer review of my lecture

Three peer reviewers who attended my lectures (as part of the Open for Observation program) commended how students engaged in discussions with their peers.

Get started with Peer Instruction by joining a workshop

Don’t know where to start with incorporating Peer Instruction in your lecture? Join our 90-minute workshop and leave with tailored Peer Instruction questions for your unit. Or if you have done something similar in your classroom, come along and share your approach.

Friday 24th May 10.30-12.00pm – 8SCO Room G20

Learn more about incorporating active learning techniques in your classroom with these two self-paced modules (45 mins – available via iLearn): Active learning starter pack and Active learning advanced.


Crouch, C. H., Mazur, E., (2001), Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results, Am. J. Phys. 69, 970–977 (Sept. 2001).

Mazur, E., (1997) Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Banner image: Created by Kylie Coaldrake using photos by ESB Professional and Ground Picture from Shutterstock.
Example statistics questions and other images provided by Karol Binkowski.

Posted by Karol Binkowski

Karol Binkowski is a Teaching & Leadership Academic (FHEA) and Lecturer in Statistics at the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. He holds a Master of Science in Mathematics from Jagiellonian University in Poland and a PhD in Statistics from Macquarie University. After gaining seven years of experience as a Quantitative Analyst at Westpac Institutional Banking, he returned to academia and teaches statistics, undergraduate and postgraduate, including large enrolment units, in both face-to-face and online delivery modes. His innovative approach to implementing precursor Peer Instructions in Introductory Statistics lectures earned him the Faculty Award for Excellence in Early Career Teaching in 2023.

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