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What is peer instruction?

Peer instruction is when you have students learn by discussing questions in class, generally involving polling and guidance from the instructor.

Scroll down to read about the benefits and range of approaches for peer instruction.

iClicker logoAre you trying to set up iClicker? Here’s some quick info 

Many instructors in the Life and Physical Sciences use iClicker as a polling tool to support student engagement during lecture. Scroll down to learn more about why and how to use a range of polling options for peer instruction.

For 1:1 support in setting up iClicker instructors can reach out to to meet over Zoom to walk through the setup.

Benefits of Peer Instruction

In this video, Harvard Physics Professor Eric Mazur shares the story of the moment he realized his outstanding teaching reviews were not actually resulting in the student learning outcomes he believed he was achieving – a harsh wake-up call that led him to discover the teaching strategy he named “peer instruction”.

What is peer instruction? Peer instruction refers to the practice of students learning through discussion with peers.

Why use peer instruction? It is one of the most research-validated forms of active learning; the “Research” tab at this AAPT link includes a long list of studies supporting the practice.

What can I use in-class polling for?


Explore the toggles below to learn about the best practices for implementing polling in your course, as well as guides for setting up iClicker, and information on various polling technologies.

This video shows an example of active learning with polling: 

Peer Instruction Decision Tree

The figure at the right can guide you through how to implement peer instruction and respond to different possibilities in terms of how many students are correct.

Research-Based Implementation of Peer Instruction: A Literature Review (2017). Trisha Vickrey, Kaitlyn Rosploch, Reihaneh Rahmanian, Matthew Pilarz, and Marilyne Stains. CBE—Life Sciences Education.

Describes steps for using clickers
Research-Based Implementation of Peer Instruction: A Literature Review (2017). Trisha Vickrey, Kaitlyn Rosploch, Reihaneh Rahmanian, Matthew Pilarz, and Marilyne Stains. CBE—Life Sciences Education.


Interested in alternative polling tools to iclicker?

There are several free or instructor licensed polling tools for your smart phone or other electronic device. Whatever option you choose, it is recommended that you test the online application prior to use in a specific classroom.

Additional polling tools:

  • ABCD Card App for Smartphones
    • Visit and download app from iTunes or Google Play.
    • Developed by Western Washington University, this simple app allows students to project a bright selected choice (ABCD?) on their phone and hold up for you to see.
  • Socrative
    • Visit to learn more about the tool and its features, view a demo, create an account, and see pricing options for a PRO account.
  • Online Polling Tool (OPT)
  • Poll Everywhere
  • Kahoot!
    • Visit to access the tool and see a video showing the various learning environments where this tool has been used.
  • Plickers
  • Mentimeter


We recommend using iClicker software if possible in order to not only view student responses, but also to be able to analyze the results of your polling by individual student or the class as a whole and award participation points.

However, if you would prefer a non-technology option or want to provide non-technology options to your TAs for their discussion sections, you can use these voting cards. Either print them for students or ask students to print (in color!) and bring one to all classes.

These cards can be folded and held up during class as you ask multiple choice questions.

This article summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of using a clicker-like polling technology over flashcards or hands. None of these are magically achieved by the clicker itself. They are achieved – or not achieved – entirely by what you do in implementation. 

See sample syllabus text when using iclicker –> “Course Materials” section

Clicker Resource Guide

Writing Great Questions for Peer Instruction

Thought Questions- A New Approach to Using Clickers Teresa Foley & Pei-San Tsai

Niemeyer & Zewail-Foote (2018, Journal of Chemical Education) found that compared to men, women had significantly higher perceptions of the benefits of clickers and their ability to increase student engagement.

Want even more information? The Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative has a great collection of polling tool resources.