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Student-Student Classroom Interaction

What is student-student classroom interaction and how does it affect learning?

This theme addresses how well students communicate with one another in class. Classes where students have opportunities to communicate with each other help students effectively construct their knowledge. By emphasizing the collaborative and cooperative nature of scientific work, students share responsibility for learning with each other, discuss divergent understandings, and shape the direction of the class. The Pedagogy in Action module on Cooperative Learning is a great place to learn more about structuring student-student interactions both in and out of the classroom. The Cutting Edge teaching method module on using ConcepTests in the classroom also has tips for integrating think-pair-share activities into even large classrooms.

Characteristics/examples of classes with low and high student-student classroom interaction

Classes that have low interaction among students are more lecture-focused, often well-organized, and tend to present material clearly, with minimal text and well-chosen images. The instructor is usually well-versed in the content, but teaches in a way that does not provide an opportunity for interactions among students.

In contrast, a more student-focused class provides multiple opportunities for students to discuss ideas in small groups and may support a whole class discussion. One simple measure of this is the proportion of the class dedicated to students talking to one another. The quality of the discussion is also important: tasks that have the potential for more than one answer can generate deeper thinking processes and may also shift the direction of the lesson. (Note the connection here with aspects of the Lesson Design and Procedural Knowledge themes.) Successful discussions are characterized by small group conversations that seek to give voice to all students and to provide sufficient time and opportunity to listen and consider the ideas of others.

Consider structuring your class so that it:

Tips and examples for improving student-student classroom interaction

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