‘Pose, poll and discuss’: lessons from innovative collaborative learning

In my research for Topic 3, i.e. investigating the theoretical basis of Cooperative and Collaborative learning, I came across the Peer Instruction method established by Mazur and for which he combines an interesting interactive approach of learning by peers’ discussion and the feedback is provided by technology. The most interesting part for me in this collaborative learning method is the use of technology in order to receive feedback from students during the class. The peer instruction method is a great example of interactivity and I look forward to implement this in my own basic science classes.

The original method by Mazur was established in the 90’s when he realised that his introductory classes of physics to pre-medical students was very popular due to his ability as a communicator of information. He thinks that what he was doing in his classes was a Hollywood show, where the students were entertained for some hours during which he explained basic concepts of physics, a subject that he realised were not as easy or interesting for all the pre-medical students. He succeeded in his mission on transmitting information so that the students could be inspired to read the course book in physics and pass the exam. The most interesting part of this story comes to the realisation of Mazur that even though most of his students like his physics classes and the way he explained/performed, and that most of them could pass approved an examination from the material in books, however, when the passing students were tested about real-life problems, where they asked to apply basic knowledge of physics… they failed! So Mazur decided to turn things around, meaning that he will provide the students with the material to read or watch before his class, and during the class he will test their knowledge by asking them to solve simple physics problems. The approach was neat, as the students used electronic polls systems to vote for the right answer to the problem. After that he asked them to turn around to each other and discuss the answer to the problem. Those who knew the answer or understood better the subject will help those who were in another level of understanding. When the students were asked to vote again, there should be a positive difference as to the number of students that get the answer right.


I think of this example in own situation and it just makes me very enthusiastic, as I am also dealing with a ‘heavy’ subject for students, such as is microbiology. At least in the theoretical part of microbiology for dental students that in an ‘old-fashioned’ way has been about learning complicated names of micro-organisms, implementing this collaborative learning method will have positive outcome. Transforming the information into real-life problems will make the students apply the acquired information on basic microbiology to their daily life and hopefully later on in their clinical treatments. In further investigating the available tools for performing polls during classes, there are several apps for IOS and Android that would get the job done. The present and future of Collaborative Learning is promising!

3 thoughts on “‘Pose, poll and discuss’: lessons from innovative collaborative learning

  1. I think you have touched a very important subject. It is common that certain lectures or teachers are considered popular because the lecture is a bit like a show where the teacher is the one working hard. As Mazur found out students might think this is fun, but they hardly ever learn anything except basic concepts from this. How to make student to the work and process information to turn it into knowledge that they can use in real life that is a real challenge! I also think that collaborative work designed in a good way can help them achieve this, but the road to the right design is bumpy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this clip of Mr Mazur. It is a great example of flipped classroom and his methods are very easy to take in. Like Pernilla mentions above, it can be a bumpy road towards getting your student to share and collaborate. Partly since the culture at universities have taught them that the professor/lecturer is the knowledge barer and the one with all the answer. I truly thinks that flipped learning is the future. You will get students who take responsibility for their own learning and then become stars on their way to knowledge and understanding. /Viktoria PBL 7


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