At the nexus of learning and innovation


Staff involved

  • Associate professor Gareth Denyer

Description of ideas and implementation

Using a software tool called Peerwise (see demo video), Gareth engaged his biochemistry students in actively creating learning resources as part of their coursework. Peerwise enables this by supporting an online community of students in creating and answering multiple choice questions around topics set by a teacher. The answers to any given question can also then be commented on, for example, explaining why a certain answer might be incorrect. Having students generate these questions themselves is beneficial because it makes them actively generate multiple solution-representations to a given problem: some correct, some incorrect. This means that learners are prompted to think deeply about a problem and why certain answers are indeed correct, and why not others. It also prompts learners to reflect on their own understanding, and the trajectory it has taken (i.e. metacognition), and to perhaps spell out systematic misunderstandings they have encountered. All of this—generative thinking and metacognition—is well supported in the research as supporting deeply connected and robust knowledge, rather than the poorly connected and superficial kind that is soon forgotten.

The task Gareth set for his students was to give them a case-study accompanied by a set of 30 multiple-choice questions in Peerwise. These questions, however, we not ideal. Some where deliberately too hard, and others too easy. The assignment for the students was, therefore, to make a better set of questions and to do this collaboratively in groups of 9. Each individual student was to be responsible for a single question, and to also answer the 8 other questions made by others in their team. Part of the assessment was also the quality of comments that each individual was to leave on their peers' questions, and how these comments helped them refine the quality of the question. In the end, Gareth marked each groups group of 9 questions as to their quality, but also the commenting process that went into refining them.