(88h) The Effect of Peer Instruction On Students' Construction of Conceptual Understanding in Thermodynamics

Koretsky, M. D., Oregon State University
Brooks, B. J., Oregon State University

This study uses the Web-based Interactive Science and Engineering (WISE) Learning Tool as a platform to investigate the effectiveness of Peer Instruction on the explicit understanding of undergraduate students in chemical engineering thermodynamics. WISE is designed to utilize the college's Wireless Laptop Initiative so that every student in a class is simultaneously engaged. This tool facilitates active learning in the classroom, metacognition, and formative assessment of student learning. Peer Instruction is a technique where an instructor presents a multiple-choice conceptual question to the class. Students answer individually at first and next are shown a ?poll? of the class responses. They then form groups and discuss the problem with peers, and finally answer again individually. The cohort in this study was 69 students in the second term of a junior level chemical engineering thermodynamics class. No rationalizations were provided for answer choices; instead, each time students answered, they were asked to reflect on their choice and provide a short written explanation. They were also asked to indicate their confidence in the answer chosen. The student explanations, both before and after group consultation, were coded based on completeness and correctness. Four questions were analyzed, two in which a majority of the class initially reported the correct multiple choice answer and two in which the minority had the correct answer. On exercises in which the popular answer is also the correct answer, analysis of code gains compared to code losses indicate a statistically significant increase in apparent understanding. However, on those exercises in which the majority of the class chose incorrectly, there was no statistically significant improvement of understanding for the class as whole. Furthermore, in these cases there were a significant number of students that changed their answer to the popular, incorrect answer. These results lend support to the theory of social constructivism and the consensuality principle, and can help guide the use of Peer Instruction in the classroom.