Concept Testing / Peer Instruction

Concept Tests were developed as part of the peer instruction technique used to teach physics (Mazur, 1997). Concept Tests generally correspond to the comprehension level of Bloom’s taxonomy but may be suitable for application questions

Peer instruction divides class time between short expositions and conceptual multiple choice questions.  This can be useful in a flipped learning environment where learners have been asked to participate in a learning activity independently, prior to being in a class.

Importantly, concept tests are not content-based multiple-choice questions that rely on the learners rereading their notes. Instead, these questions are designed to assess student understanding of the principal concepts underlying the material.

This short video from Dr Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel from the Learning Scientists explains concept testing in a non-digital environment.

How to use Concept Tests

Digital polling tools are very useful for carrying out concept tests.  Polling / quizzing tools that have the functionality where the teacher can control when the question is displayed are particularly useful.  Tools such as socrative have this ability.

1. Post a question 

Learners should consider the question individually for a short time (30 seconds to 1 minute) and chose an answer. This should be done without other learners seeing each others responses

2. Teacher evaluates student responses.

If less than 35% of the responses are correct, students do not understand the topic well enough to discuss the subject. If more than 70% of the class gets the answer correct in their first response, the question was probably too easy therefore, any further discussion will not yield much improvement . The best strategy is to explain the answer and move forward.

3. Peer instruction.

When responses are between 35-70%, students discuss the reasons for their choices in pairs or small groups before voting again . This process usually results in an increase in the number of correct answers and an increase in student confidence in their answer choices Allow 1-2 minutes for discussion.