(2018) iCERi 8739-8747

Peer learning for large size Physics lectures in higher education: yes, we can
Matteo Bozzi, Juliana Elisa Raffaghelli, Maurizio Zani
iCERi 2018, XI International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (Seville – Spain)
Atti, 8739-8747 (2018) [ISBN 978-84-09-05948-5, ISSN 2340-1095] – doi 10.21125/iceri.2018.0608



Nowadays, traditional lectures are considered insufficient to cover learners’ needs [1] and the efficacy of more participatory and active methods has been pointed out [2]. The synergistic use of both traditional lectures and educational technologies supporting self-assessment, peer learning and peer evaluation alike, has been proved effective [3].

The academic course on Mechanics and Electromagnetism “Fisica Sperimentale A+B” at Politecnico di Milano was selected to investigate this hypothesis in large size lectures. It was provided to both freshmen attending the first year of Chemical Engineering and those studying Materials and Nanotechnology Engineering during the first term of the academic year 2017-2018. After arranging the students in three different sections on the basis of an alphabetical order, the design of one of these sections was revised not only as compared with the courses held in the previous years, but also with reference to the pedagogical method adopted in the other two sections.

In addition to traditional lectures, the students of this section took periodical tests based on multiple choice quizzes whose provision was implemented by using the on-line portal Socrative [4]. Taking into account the positive results of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) [5], the students were allowed to use their own electronic devices. Immediately after each test and without getting any feedback on the accuracy, freshmen would discuss the quizzes in small groups for few minutes. At the end of this debate, they retook the same test.

Thanks to the significant bulk of data collected, the findings are likely to show that the average score achieved by the students in the same test, normalised so that the highest value is equal to 10, increases considerably as a consequence of peer discussion: from 5.1 to 6.8 in Mechanics, corresponding to a growth by 32%, and from 3.6 to 5.6 in Electromagnetism, corresponding to an increase by 55%. Moreover, a sensible decrease in the incorrect answers rate emerges in relation to each quiz: on average, 43% and 30% in Mechanics and Electromagnetism respectively.

Furthermore, significant and comparable reductions of this rate occur as regards quizzes characterised by both low and high percentage of incorrect answers in tests which precede peer learning and peer evaluation.
Finally, the percent decrease in incorrect answers given by female students is higher than the male percent reduction in 90% of the Mechanics quizzes and lower in the remaining 10%; conversely, they are both equal to 50% with relation to Electromagnetism quizzes.


[1] High Level Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education, “Report to the European Commission on New modes of learning and teaching in Higher Education”, Luxembourg, 2014
[2] P. Ghislandi, J. Raffaghelli, “Quality teaching matters: perspectives on quality teaching for the modernization of higher education. A position paper”, Formazione & Insegnamento, 12 (1), 57-86, 2014
[3] D. Nulty, “Peer and self-assessment in the first year of university”, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36 (5), 493-507, 2011
[4] M. Tretinjak Filipović, A. Bednjanec, M. Tretinjak, “Interactive teaching with Socrative”, MIPRO, 848-851, 2015
[5] D. Méndez-Coca, J. Slisko, “Software Socrative and smartphone as tools for implementation of basic processes of active physics learning in classroom: An initial feasibility study with prospective teachers”, EJPE 4 (2), 17-24, 2013