"Teaching is listening, learning is talking."
- Attributed to Deborah Meier
When I saw that the title of one of the units in the Flipped Learning Level II Certification was titled Peer Instruction, my thoughts immediately went to Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), something that I learned about during my initial teacher education and which I think is a valuable tool. The unit was led by two people, Eric Mazur; a Professor of Physics at Harvard; and Troy Faulkner a Social Studies teacher in Minnesota and my initial understanding, based solely on the unit, is that while it is not, in itself, just ZPD, it does appear to be based on and utilise a lot of ZPD theory.
Eric and Troy defined Peer Instruction as being a process wherein students engage with each other to convince the other of correctness of their position to a question asked by the teacher through discussion, comparison, (classical) argument (as opposed to the I'm right and you're wrong so ner!" style of argument), and reflection. This is of course predicated on students having a basic understanding of the concept before engage in the peer instruction component, with further learning experience through the process of arguing their point and having flaws pointed out to them.
Peer Instruction appears to be a process that, depending on the age of the students, would be relatively straightforward to implement. One of the biggest benefits that spring to mind from this strategy, whether it is used in a flipped context or not, is that it would appear to aid in the development of the ability to argue using evidence and logic. Students are required, as part of this process, to defend their position whilst working to win-over the other person using evidence from the pre-learning, the text, background knowledge, and logic. I can imagine that in the early stages of this process being implemented in a classroom that the arguments would potentially be quite simplistic. Students would of course need training in how to form logical coherent arguments, in identifying evidence that will be useful for demonstrating their position in a logical way.
There was another element about this that I liked, which was that how you implemented it can be varied to suit your personal teaching style; structure with set time frames through to laissez-fair and that even that might change over time. If I was to use this strategy in the classroom, it would be quite structured initially in order to provide a firm structure for the students to work within and learn how to engage with and implement the process, becoming less structured and more open as they became more comfortable and confident with the process.
If Peer Instruction you wanted to look into further, take a look at Peer Instruction by Eric Mazur, or visit Troy's website and his page on peer instruction. There is also a blog written by Julie Schell who is a member of the Mazur Group at Harvard University.