At LSE we use the voting system called Turning Point so I went along to the 2014 Turning Point conference in Manchester to find out what other institutions are getting up to with voting technology.
The keynote speaker was Dr Eric Mazur, Professor of physics at Harvard University.
Unsurprisingly as the developer of peer instruction teaching he was a very engaging lecturer and soon had everyone in the room animatedly discussing physics concepts. Dr Mazur demonstrated how PRS can be an effective way to get people engaged and excited about learning. Rather than simply being quizzed students are required to discuss and explain their answers with each other before the question is re-polled. This builds in time for learners to reflect on the concepts in the lecture and if you frame your questions right, the ability to transfer knowledge from one context to another. Data from Dr Mazur’s lectures indicates that students are better at learning from each other and even those that originally have the incorrect answer often clarify their thinking when articulating it to others.
Flipping roles – student sourcing questions and answers
One of the most important aspects of using voting in teaching is coming up with good questions.
Dr Simon Lancaster Professor at UEA argued that concept based and challenging questions are essential to get students to invest in the voting process and his talk demonstrated that questions that divide participants and invite debate get the most responses. He urged lecturers to ‘flip roles’ and source the clicker questions and possible answers from students themselves. In addition to asking your own students to suggest questions he recommended ‘PeerWise’ as a free online resource: http://www.peerwise-community.org/
Asking questions in qualitative subjects
A range of ‘PechaKucha’ style presentations by humanities lecturers at University of Manchester gave several examples of academics who are using voting technology even when there isn’t always a ‘right answer’. They found that voting activities helped them to:
See the video with examples from lecturers here: http://www.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/tandl/resources/resource.php?id=88
Team based learning using clickers & scratch-cards
The final session discussed ‘team based learning’ (TBL) that is going on in the University of Bradford. Much like flipping, they have attempted to move the subject knowledge out of the classroom so that contact time can be used to work on problem solving using the course content. They use a purpose built room and rather than lectures or seminars they have one session which is divided into three parts:
Individual preparation + team discussion + class discussion
Self testing using clickers
Students are set preparatory material to review ahead of the class. Students use the clickers to carry out individual tests at their own pace which make sure that they have done the preparation. The advantage of using the clickers is:
- The results are linked up directly to the VLE so teachers can view the responses as they are submitted and work on feedback on common problems while the students are working on the next task.
- Students can access their marks and the correct answers almost instantly after the class.
- It is self-paced so students with learning difficulties can take as long as they want on each question and so far has eliminated the need to make individual arrangements.
- It minimizes cheating as students sit different versions of the test paper.
- It encourages students to complete the preparation before class. N.B. These individual scores are summative so marks are all recorded on the VLE and used to calculate the final mark.
- Students work in groups to discuss the questions and reach a consensus on the solutions – using scratch cards to check their answers and calculate their teams score.
- N.B Teams have 24 hours to submit an appeal to any question if they believe the content is wrong or the question is poor.
- The teacher then goes over concepts that were not well understood using the results from the individual testing.
In class activities
- Teams use the knowledge from the first two exercises to work on significant problems.
- Every team works on the same activity and then reports back to the whole group with the reasoning for their choice enabling instructor facilitated discussion. ‘Often in justifying their choice , or arguing with a team that selected a different answer, teams achieve deep learning of the concepts in the initial reading and enhanced their ability to apply that knowledge to a problem’.