Engaging STEM Learners with Peer Instruction

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

Participants will experience, learn, and practice Peer Instruction, a research-based pedagogy that promotes active engagement and student-centered learning through technology integration. After experiencing PI using an interactive student response tool, participants will reflect on how this pedagogy could be used within the context of their own classrooms. 



Dr. Jennifer Porter is the director for curriculum and instruction at OnRamps, The University of Texas at Austin-led initiative established to increase the number and diversity of high school students who participate in courses aligned with the expectations of universities. Jennifer brings to OnRamps more than 20 years of experience in the education sector. In her current position, she has innovated from the ground up OnRamps’ professional learning and development initiative—now serving some 1,000 educators from 6 when it launched in 2012. In addition, she leads the implementation of OnRamps courses and collaborates with University Faculty on the curricula and classroom experiences. Prior to joining OnRamps, Jennifer held a number of leadership positions as a campus and district administrator at public schools across Texas. Most recently, she served as the assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction, and assessment at Little Elm and Comal independent school districts where she was responsible for ensuring district goals and objectives were met efficiently and effectively and that curriculum, instruction and assessment systems were established, implemented and realized with fidelity. Jennifer has held adjunct faculty positions at The University of Texas at San Antonio and Concordia University, respectively. She earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from The University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree in developmental psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies from Texas Tech University.

Extended Abstract

Peer Instruction (PI) engages students and transforms traditional lecture-based knowledge acquisition by creating an interactive, student-centered learning environment that allows students to practice higher-order thinking. PI is a pedagogy of engagement that challenges students to retrieve previously learned information, apply it to a complex problem or question, discuss their ideas and answers with peers, rethink their original answers, and answer again. The Peer Instruction teaching method has been highly tested in high school and university-level science classes. Championed by Harvard Physics Professor, Eric Mazur, Peer Instruction is currently practiced at high schools, colleges and universities across the country, including in the University of Texas at Austin’s innovative OnRamps Dual-Enrollment Physics, Chemistry, and Geoscience courses. In this workshop, participants will learn PI best practices from OnRamps staff who are experts in this pedagogy.

For further information regarding the value of Peer Instruction see -
Crouch, Catherine H., and Eric Mazur. "Peer instruction: Ten years of experience and results." American journal of physics 69.9 (2001): 970-977.
Fagen, Adam P., Catherine H. Crouch, and Eric Mazur. "Peer instruction: Results from a range of classrooms." The Physics Teacher 40.4 (2002): 206-209.
Crouch, Catherine H., et al. "Peer instruction: Engaging students one-on-one, all at once." Research-based reform of university physics 1.1 (2007): 40-95.