Getting Started: Syllabus Advice

Make Peer Instruction a required, “important” part of the course

You might feel uncomfortable about this, especially the first time. But it’s really important. The entire Peer Instrction process is work for the students. It is work for them to prepare by reading (or whatever) before class. It’s WORK for students to be so engaged in class. You need to send the signal that this work is both worth their time and valuable to them. Whether we like it or not, in the US, in education value is indicated by points towards a grade. Making PI work worth points gives students the excuse to make the time in their schedules to do the work you need them to do.

Recommended: 5-10% “reading” quizzes, 5-10% “clicker use” in class.

Note: My former CS1 students, when advising me about a CS0 non-majors, required course, strongly enouraged me to make clicker use be 10% — something that indicated you HAD to come to class, it was important. I think they were right.

Points for correctness or participation?

In general, it is recommended that students get points for participating, not that they have to get PI questions correct to get their points (this refers to the “disucssion questions”, not the “quiz” questions which you may choose to give using clickers at the beginning of class).

Note: To help students differentiate this, I put a red “border” (box) around the outside of “quiz” questions, which come at the very beginning of class, don’t have discussion, and which they have to “get right” to get points.
However, when I taught a large, required, non-majors course, after the frist term I required students to get at least 50% of questions correct in any given session in order to get their participation points. Since about 30-70% of students get questions right in the solo vote, and they have their team for the group vote, this seemed to be non-stress inducing but avoided slackers bringing down the team.

Recommended: You must click in at least 80% of the time during the term to get your “clicker” points (this 80% avoids the “funeral” disucssions).

Do I need to make any other syllabus changes because of PI?

One possible consideration is reducing existing levels of “assessment”. You are now asking students to do quite a bit more work for the course (reading, really “learning” in class). You might find you want to reduce the quantity or frequency of some other forms of assessment (e.g. traditional quizzes or multiple mid-terms, written asssignments?). Just remember, you are giving them LOTS of detailed feedback now, in class, about how they are doing. So, consider if that is still needed, or needed as much.