Peer instruction has been identified as an effective teaching method yet it is often used for supplementary instruction rather than as a core technique. This study provides quantitative evidence that peer teaching can effectively substitute for faculty-led instruction under certain conditions. One of the authors of this report received a Fulbright Scholar Award to train fifty biomedical engineering students in Biochemistry at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Uganda. At the start of this faculty member’s time in Uganda, it became obvious that the instructor/student language barrier was too great to rely on lecture-based instruction, even though the official language of Uganda is English. Consequentially, the faculty member primed student learning through the use of short presentations and then enabled the students in the classroom to advance the knowledge base of their colleagues. The results indicated that the Ugandan students started at a significantly lower level of understanding compared to students at a university in the United States as measured through “individual readiness assessment tests” (Uganda: 43+9% vs US: 69+11%). However, the Ugandan students did just as well as the US students after working together on a “group readiness assessment test” (Uganda: 92+5% vs US: 93+4%).
During each class, students had multiple opportunities to work together in teams. These activities included group assessments, problem-solving, and short presentations on applications of course material, in addition to homework assignments. Both groups of students, Ugandan and US, had similar scores on the first exam, although there was a significant difference in the second exam (Uganda: 78+13; 73+11 vs US: 75+11; 80+14). The results of this study demonstrate that overall knowledge is not diminished when peer instruction is the primary form of learning.
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