Each One Teach One

This post to serve as article review number four for Online Pedagogy.

In reading New Learning Environments for the 21st Century Exploring the Edge by John Seely Brown I came across formal methods for having students teach each other in a controlled environment. I found it so interesting I tracked down another similar article.

While I admit I only read thoroughly through page 23 of 55 pages, what I read moved me. Around page 23 I started skimming looking for points that I wanted to read more about.

Over the past two decades, depending upon the topic of the day, I’ve encouraged participants (students) to show others using the old adage, ‘anything you try to teach another person will help you cement your skills.’ Right. You may know it as ‘each one, teach one.’ The act of showing another person, speaking to them, trying to determine how you would explain a task, brings to the fore the need for a person to explain concepts, demonstrate perspective, display empathy–to best connect with another person’s learning styles–and have self-knowledge. Okay, self-knowledge could be a stretch, but even if a student is moving through the ConcepTest activity with others in a rote manner, they will have the opportunity to reflect upon what they are doing and how they can do it better for the next class session.

It’s not important, or recommended, that a task hit all six facets… but the idea that these ConcepTest activities are rich enough that students may ‘take from them what they will’ seems to be another reason why they might be so successful. The repetitiveness of this series of instruction is also appealing. This is not just an activity that is done once or twice a semester.

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See The Hearty Magazine for this photo and information relating to workshops for youth

In particular I like the idea that “students try to convince each other of their own answer by explaining the underlying reasoning.” They are “encouraged to ‘find someone who disagrees with you’ for this discussion.”  (p. 7) What a great use of persuasion. Improving discussion, verbal skills and the understanding of the base topics in physics through a very different method.

“… prefacing demonstrations with ConcepTests improves student understanding of the demonstrations, generally student interest int he demonstrations increases as well.” (p. 12) By priming the student’s thinking you’re revving up their engine. Don’t go for cold starts. Avoid nuclear winter of the brain. I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I really feel that this peer instruction method and the turn cycle that appears to develop is an amazing approach. Of course I don’t think it is new. One need only to look to Socrates and Plato.


  • These materials cover over ten years of use within physics courses at Harvard University as well as some information/results on similar processes used at other schools.
  • The structure of the paper is not only well laid out, but clearly covered early in the document.
  • The method for peer instruction, the ConcepTest is well defined in writing, as well as via visual example. (pgs. 6-7)

I propose, “Let’s argue, we’ll all be better off for it” would be an excellent title for my next Teaching Tip.

The further I get into the notes I took on this article the more I just want to dig in. Getting the students involved is paramount to their creating building blocks in their minds. I see the topic regarding students not knowing how to read (science books) to learn (p. 14) and the idea of a flipped classroom (p. 15) as perfect precursors to what I’d like to see instructors do. Furthermore I’d like to be one of ‘those’ instructors.

In John Seely Brown’s closing keynote to the 2010 New Media Consortium (NMC) conference one of the best sections, other than the surfing video I could not see… was the idea that the number one skill college students have (or gain) that reflects their chances of success is the ability to join or start a study group. I had made a note in the margins on page 16, asking myself whether or not this peer instruction could be used online. A large portion of John Seely Brown’s closing keynote suggests that it can. Not only that, the opening keynote by Mimi Ito has beautiful examples of students use facebook for just that. Using facebook and getting written up or suspended for studying through this method online.

I offer the following only to barely balance out the good: it took me until page 19 to really get into this article. The writing, while clear, is a bit stiff. That’s one reason that I started skimming on page 23.

Author’s note: I’ve made notations on this article to provide to a new instructor who is flipping his classroom. While I would not recommend that he give this article to his students, he may want to take excerpts about the success a student will achieve through giving their time and attention to proper pre-class reading.

Crouch, C., J. Watkins, A. Fagen, and E. Mazur. (2007). Peer Instruction: Engaging Students One-on-One, All at Once, Reviews in Physics Education Research, Ed. E.F. Redish and P. Coone

Seely Brown, J. (2010, June 22). Closing Keynote 2010 NMC Conference video Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4FPH-Oo1iM

Ito, M., (2010, June 22). Opening Keynote 2010 NMC Conference video Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GolWlpwQqOU