One of the key attributes that undergraduate study of a subject seeks to develop is an advanced level of problem solving ability within the discipline. This is particularly true in (but not restricted to) science disciplines, where the typical assessment tasks to be completed during self-study take the form of a weekly problem set. Whilst it is true that deliberate practice of this kind can develop these skills, it has also been argued that a deeper understanding can be achieved by having students pose, as well as answer, problems. In cognitive terms, it is far more demanding to generate both correct and incorrect reasoning and answers to a problem than merely attempting to find a solution.
We have been using Peerwise as a freely available web tool that provides an online framework to facilitate student creation of problems. Developed in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Auckland, it harnesses both the latent creativity of an undergraduate cohort but also includes much of the social functionality that increasingly forms the cornerstone of online interactions. As well as being able to create assessment questions (in the form of multiple choice questions, with associated explanations), students are able to answer each other’s questions, comment on questions, seek help from authors, rate questions or comments and follow their favourite question contributors.
Project Pilot 2010-2011
In the 2010-11 academic year, we piloted the use of PeerWise in our introductory first year Physics courses. The use of PeerWise was built into the summative assessment of the course (contributing a small amount to the in curse assessment grade for each of the two semester-long courses. Prior to start of the assessment task, we provided scaffolding activities that helped students consider both what makes a good MCQ and how to go about creating questions based on their self-identified misconceptions or misunderstandings. This took the form of structured group work activities for workshop / tutorial sessions. We found evidence of strong engagement and high quality questions and discussions relevant to the course material.
- Slides from invited talk given by Simon Bates at AAPT 2011 Summer Meeting in Omaha NE, 1st August 2011: Can Student-Generated Content Enhance Learning in Introductory Physics?
- Paper accepted for publication in the PERC 2011 proceedings will be available online in time but available as a pdf for now.
Project Developments 2011
In August 2011, we were awarded grant funding from JISC as part of their Assessment and Feedback programme (strand B) for a project to investigate expanding our study to include courses at different educational levels and in different subjects. Working with colleagues in the Schools of Chemistry and Biological Sciences at Edinburgh, this project will run for 1 year from September 2011. Full details will appear on the publicly accessible project wiki: "SGC4L - student generated content for learning" in due course.
The scaffolded implementation of PeerWise was also awarded the Formative e-Assessment prize at the Scottish e-Assessment Conference, 2011.
Project ContactsProf Simon Bates, School of Physics and Astronomy Dr Ross Galloway, School of Physics and Astronomy Prof Judy Hardy, School of Physics and Astronomy Karon McBride, School of Physics and Astronomy
Partners on the SGC4L project - Colin Pulham, Chemistry & Heather McQueen, Biology.
Publications & Documents
- Simon P. Bates, Ross K. Galloway and Karon L. McBride Student-generated content: using PeerWise to enhance engagement and outcomes in introductory physics courses (PERC 2011 Proceedings) (pdf)
- Karon L. McBride, Simon P. Bates, Ross K. Galloway Overview of Peerwise Use at Edinburgh (pdf)
- Peerwise Website - find more information, videos, features
- Paul Denny's Home Page the creator of Peerwise
- Scaffolding Resources (zip) - the scaffolding used in the Edinburgh Physics and Astronomy implementation of Peerwise.
- JISC Assessment and Feedback Strand B - the JISC programme relating to this project.