Why use Whiteboards in a classroom?
(from the Exploring Physics)

Whiteboards, or small dry erase boards, allow students to work collaboratively in small groups, and present their thinking in a visual way as part of the learning process. Using whiteboards, students working in groups can “report out” to the entire class. More than one student can contribute to the group’s whiteboard, so students can easily fix their errors, revise their thinking, and rewrite their ideas. The teacher can walk around the classroom and observe the development of students’ thinking as they write their whiteboards. This fosters communication between the teacher and students, and among students.

A modeling approach to teaching physics emphasizes constructing and applying conceptual models. Whiteboarding is an important part of this approach, as it gives students opportunities to articulate their developing models, refine their thinking, and present their results to the class.

Teachers experience many benefits when their class uses whiteboards. Whiteboarding provides

  • Improved learning through increased participation and collaboration among students.
  • Alternate methods of learning (visual and auditory).
  • A tool to manage instruction so that students can construct their own knowledge and understanding from evidence.
  • A quick and cost-effective way of formatively assessing students.
  • Help in diagnosing students’ misconceptions.
  • Insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the class in understanding a particular concept or phenomena so that scaffolding can be provided.
  • A way to manage discussion by focusing students on the topic at hand

Jackson, J., Dukerich, L., & Hestenes, D. (2008). Modeling instruction: An effective model for science education. Science Educator, 17 (1), 10- 17.
N. Muslu, D. Hanuscin, S. Sinha, A TIME for Physics First Newsletter, Dec 2010.

In a museum or gallery walk, student groups line up their whiteboards, propping them against the wall or on a chair. All students walk past each whiteboard and discuss what they see. This gives all students a chance to view and discuss everyone’s work. The groups then come together as a class and discuss their observations. The whole-class discussion may provide students with ideas for improving their own work.

This method has worked well during teacher professional development sessions. For example, after reading papers on leadership and discussing several aspects of leadership, teachers were asked what they thought were the main features of a teacher leader. Teacher groups summarized their ideas on whiteboards, and placed them against the wall as a display. They then walked around the gallery of whiteboards, and added comments using post-it notes.

Reference: Henry, D., Henry, J., & Riddoch, S. (2006). Whiteboarding your way to great student discussions. Science Scope, 29 (7), 50-53.