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I"m a teacher of math and I stumbled on Eric Mazur's work on Youtube. The PeerInstruction Network is worth subscribing to to get the most recent blog posts. Julie Schell has an excellent summary of the method at Julie Schell Peer Instruction on youtube...
The key points are setting up a "concept test" which is a question that students discuss. This is how to get studnets participating in the class rather than passively receiving information... and the teacher gets some idea of how the student understands the material when the test or quiz is given on paper. Using Mazur's method, the teacher can find out quickly how many students get the concept.
The book might be focused largely on calculus and physics, but its resources can be adapted to apply to other sciences ... and I've used some of his procedures in a history class, too.

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