To find out why we started this trial of an in-class polling tool and how we prepared for it, read part one of this article.
The classroom experience
Dan Daugaard decided to use Socrative with a limited number of questions. He also used both multiple choice and text responses. He trialled the tool in three different classes of 40+ students: two in Sydney and one in Melbourne.
Dan utilised the tool in a number of different ways which illustrate the inventiveness and creativity that is possible in academic teaching and the flexibility of in-class polling tools.
As a gentle prod to recalcitrant students
Dan used Socrative to prompt all students to do the reading. He set questions based on the reading and asked students to complete a short quiz in their own time. Back in class, he displayed the results. Dan believes this may have prompted students that hadn’t read the material to do so, as clearly there were issues they didn’t understand. Dan saw students quickly logging on and answering the questions during class.
As a Diagnostic tool
During the class students were asked questions based on foundational knowledge. Dan was surprised at the response to one question in particular “maybe they didn’t know as much as was expected”. This allowed him to continue delivering the workshop with some additional content that would remediate this issue and some adaption to explain the concepts in more detail.
As a method by which to stimulate student activity and engagement in class
One of Dan’s particularly challenging classes was a three-day intensive session. Usually by day three, students are struggling to remain focused on the complex issues associated with financial markets.
Dan used Socrative at the end of day three. He asked students to give examples of market anomalies in a free text question. They could all respond using their mobile device and see the class responses. This allowed Dan to use the student’s responses to group the similar ones and pick out the illustrative examples. Students started to talk with each other as the answers come up in the class. They started looking at each others’ mobile devices and saying “no that’s my one”. Dan believes this illustrated to the students that they were all in this together. They were part of a whole, and working jointly on coming up with examples. Students were interested in seeing their responses being shared with the class, but also to see the suggestions from their peers. This created energy and enthusiasm in the room as students were asked for their input.
Dan used this as an introduction to the topic of market anomalies now he had got their attention. As a consequence of Dan’s passion and engagement with his class, the challenging class had become less challenging. His students applauded him at the end of the class.
The future for Dan
Dan intends to use in-class polling tools in future. He is considering extending this approach to other topics in his unit in order to continue to increase the level of participation in class.
Dan is also keen to try the leaderboard feature, where students or groups of students answer questions either in class or outside it, creating a competitive game-like activity for students. Socrative has such a setup called a Space Race where you progress to the finish line once you get a correct answer.
As a learning designer I am often pleasantly surprised at the creativity and adaptability of teachers in using technology. Dan’s use of this tool has underlined just how flexible an in-class polling tool can be, and just how effective it can be in generating increased levels of student engagement. This is provided that the correct tool is selected, the technology works and is reliable, that students have the relevant devices and there is the correct infrastructure. I hope to continue trialing the use of this tool and other similar tools with Macquarie University’s committed teaching staff.
How are other people using polling in their lectures?
If you are interested in how this type of technology can be used I would recommend searching for Eric Mazur.
Professor Mazur uses in-class polling as a way to get students to talk to other students about their answers and to explain in their own words. He shows that for some contexts this can lead to improved learning outcomes. You can view a video on Peer instruction by Professor Mazur or a research paper by him Peer instruction: Ten years of experience and results.