A recent study, published in the International Journal of Educational Research, found that having a young professional (someone who the students could see as a peer, but slightly ahead of them) talk to your students about why your course is valuable had a marked positive influence on students’ grades.
In a recent article in Science Daily, “Peers, more than teachers, inspire us to learn”, one of the study’s authors, Carey Roseth, explained that
“[A]s a student, I can identify with my peers and imagine myself using the course material in the same way they do. This gives the material meaning and a sense of purpose that goes beyond memorization. When I hear a peer’s story, it connects to the story I am telling myself about who I want to be in the future.”
On the downside, instructors giving the identical information actually made the students do worse! Roseth suggests that,
“This gives support to the idea that, motivationally, the fact that instructors control grades, tell the students what to do, and so on, may be working against their efforts to increase their students’ appreciation of why the class is important.”
I am wondering if this may hold for lots of non-course content information. For example, would it be better to have peers talk to students about effective learning strategies, rather than trying to convince the students yourself? If you say it, students may see it as you trying to control them and telling them what to do, rather than as helpful advice.
In related news, some recent research offers further support for the idea that community connections improve student learning.
- Ohio State University. “Here’s one secret to successful schools that costs nothing: ‘Social capital’ linked to more students passing state test.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2017. “>www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170403123319.htm.
- Michigan State University. “How to improve your freshman retention rate.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170303100415.htm.
Tae S. Shin, John Ranellucci, Cary J. Roseth. Effects of peer and instructor rationales on online students’ motivation and achievement. International Journal of Educational Research, 2017; 82: 184 DOI: 10.1016/j.ijer.2017.02.001