Students supporting students – what can we learn from their questions?

Finlayson, O. and Kelly, Orla (2013) Students supporting students – what can we learn from their questions? In: 5th Eurovariety in Chemistry Education, University of Limerick, 3rd – 5th July 2013. “Smarter Teaching-Better Learning, Limerick, Ireland..


Recent studies have indicated a tendency for students to adopt a surface learning approach in their studies of chemistry. Increasingly, students who progress into 2nd year of undergraduate degree programmes can have difficulty in dealing with the 2nd year content or have difficulty in addressing higher order questions. Student peer support has been explored as a means of encouraging effective learning in higher education. A further development which enhances peer supported learning is the use of Peerwise ( Peerwise is a freely available web tool that provides an online framework where students can create and answer problems. Additionally, students can comment and discuss the answers to the problems created. In this study, a group of 2nd year students used the peerwise tool to create assessment multiple choice questions in the area of kinetics. Over the four week lecture course, students were asked to do a minimum of creating 4 problems, answer 20 problems and comment on 8 problems. With 117 students involved in the lecture programme, this resulted in the generation of over 400 problems. Analysis of these problems has shown that they vary in depth, correctness and relevance. However, they give a very good indication of the student’s understanding of the lecture content. Student comments have been analysed in terms of deepening the discussion on the individual questions. The use of the peerwise tool provides continuous information to the lecturer on misunderstandings developed within the lecture programme.

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