Peer Instructions to Check for Understanding

Submitted by Catherine Cochran on

The problem:  Some students have been misinterpreting my instructions for class assignments with multiple steps.  With two multiple stepped assignments, on average 6 out of 31 students missed a concept. 

The process:  Peer groups consisted of 4 students.  After groups were given instructions for the assignment, peers repeated the instructions to their group. Afterwards, each group (8 tables) had to summarize and rewrite the instructions on a mini white board. 

The results:  Table summaries were read out loud to check for understanding.  This had a dual effect:  I verified my students understanding and my students were able to process the instructions through various forms of their learning tendencies and reinforce clear understanding. 

The outcome: 4 out of the 31 of students failed to submitted the assignment on-time and followed all the instructions.  That is a 7% increase in submission and completing the assignment correctly.  

Completed Full Cycle
Course Number
CPD 150
Average: 4.4 (5 votes)


Olga Tsoudis Thu, 10/13/2016 - 2:43pm

Peer groups is such a great way to increase student completion. Are you satisfied with the results?

Catherine Cochran Fri, 10/14/2016 - 8:03am

Hi Olga,

I am satisfied with my results.  I feel peer input bring a different dynamic to the learning process.  At the end, I check for understanding to make sure peer instructions were communicated correctly.  

Becky Baranowski Mon, 10/17/2016 - 12:44pm

Not following instructions or misinterpretting directions is a huge pet peeve of mine.  Every semester, I try to rewrite the directions to get them to make more sense, but there are still always questions.  I haven't tried peer review, though.  So, this may be my next plan of action.  Thanks for sharing. 

Peter Turner Mon, 10/17/2016 - 1:25pm

I love it when a teacher sees something that is not happening the way they want it and try a new strategy to improve results! That's exactly what you have done here. It also links to metacognitive activities, which is forcing students to think about what and how they do a task. Well done!

Amy Weibel Wed, 11/02/2016 - 9:01am

Hi Catherine -

This is an excellent strategy for Developmental Education as well!  I have a lot of experience working with ADD, ADHD, and auditory processing disorder students. I have students repeat back step instructions.  I like the white board process so much better!  It turns passive cognition into active cognition, while at the same time serves as a formative assessment!  Great strategy!

Muhammad Sandhu Thu, 01/12/2017 - 11:27am

Hi Catherine - I like the idea, the peer review takes the pressure off from the students who are trying to clarify the concept and through engagement their peers help them to understand the concept and in doing so both benefit. Great way to learn.

Norma Jimenez Hernandez Sun, 01/15/2017 - 10:03pm

I like the white board idea, too, and will try to implement this strategy in my statistics courses when I have students complete in-class assignments in groups given that I get the same question several times.  Thanks for sharing, Catherine!

Becky Baranowski Thu, 03/23/2017 - 9:58am

Hi Catherine - I just wanted to follow up with this CATS and see if you were still doing this in the Spring semester.  If so, how is it going?  Did you make any modifications to this peer assessment technique?

Catherine Cochran Thu, 03/23/2017 - 10:05am

In reply to by Becky Baranowski

Hi Becky,

I have been using peer review activities this spring semester.  I have the privilege of having two peer mentors in my CPD 150 course this semester.  They have been instrumental in reviewing instructions and directions during independent work time.  I have seen the shift from my students checking for understanding utilizing our peer mentors.  Thank you for the encouragement! 

Laura Dulgar Tue, 05/02/2017 - 2:20pm

Great idea Catherine! There are many times students don't understand or misinterpret the assignment. Great way to make sure there is understanding and clarity.

Jason Martinez Wed, 05/03/2017 - 1:49pm

Any increase in student compliance is good for completion. Peer groups and peer reviews are also good for students emitional inteligence because they are communicating, assessing and presenting with peer that they might not self select in a normal social situation. Great job.