Effects of Peer Instruction on State College Student Achievement in an Introductory Biology Unit in Genetics
McKnight, Holly Nicole
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The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of Peer Instruction (PI) in a state college biology classroom. Students discussed biological concepts in the area of genetics among their peers during class time. Conceptual questions were delivered to the student in the form of ConcepTests, conceptual questions designed to uncover students’ misconceptions in the material. Students first answered a question projected from the computer to an overhead screen on their own. Depending on the percentage of students that answered correctly, students then discussed their answers with their peers (PI). These discussions allowed students to uncover their misunderstandings in the material by asking them to think about what they know and what they don’t know. Students’ initial and secondary responses to the related questions gave the instructor a real time instant view of the collective class’ conceptual understanding of concepts being covered. This study was a quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest, control group design. The sample consisted of 134 students enrolled in General Biology (BSCC 1010) at Eastern Florida State College (EFSC) in Palm Bay, Florida. Both control N = 62 and experimental groups N = 72 were comprised of whole intact classes during the Fall 2014 semester. The control groups received traditional lecture content during the course of the study. They had access to conceptual questions but they were not used in a Peer Instruction format during class time. A statistical analysis was conducted after the completion of pre-tests and posttests during the Fall 2014 semester. Although there was an increase in test scores in the experimental group compared to the control, the results were not significant with p = 0.0687 at an alpha level of .05. No significant difference was found in retention p= 0.5954, gender p = 0.4487 or past science coursework p = 0.6695 between classes that engaged in PI and classes that were taught in traditional lecture-based classes. There were, however, significant differences in correct answers on the individual ConcepTests between the first and second time they answered questions after participating in Peer Instruction, p = .0008.