Flipping the class by encouraging students to prepare before a lecture, perhaps by providing short videos, helps build engagement and attendance. It also ensures that they are ready to be active in class. Especially in large lectures, it can be difficult for the lecturer to connect with all of the students and to gauge the level of understanding. Asking direct questions of the audience can be difficult – often the same set of students reply, those at the back can feel excluded and others may be too intimidated to contribute in front of the whole class.
Response devices can provide an electronic way of interacting and engaging with the whole class, without any of these problems. Most run as web apps on mobiles, tablets or computers. They allow the teacher to set up multiple choice and short answer questions, and polls. The responses provide the teacher and students with instant, graphical feedback on the level of understanding and help identify misconceptions whilst the class is still running. Common uses include:
- Multiple choice tests with distractors chosen by the teacher to identify misconceptions.
- Short answer questions used as tests or as a way of getting student opinions or feedback.
- Polls to vote on issues and guide discussions.
Although it is possible to use response systems to assign marks, most lecturers chose the anonymous option. Many students will have their own smart phone but, to ensure equity and promote group work, it is often effective to ask students in pairs or groups to agree and record a joint answer.
- Choose your own adventure: using live feedback to place learning back into the hands of students (Danny Liu, presentation to the 2013 Sydney Teaching Colloquium)
- The slides and recording of Danny Liu’s on Fostering student engagement and participation using online tools in and out of class
For further information, research on their effectiveness and ideas on uses, see the links below:
- An instructor’s guide to the effective use of personal response systems (Carl Wieman).
- Classroom Response Systems (Vanderbilt Center for Teaching).