Strategies for Engaging Students in Learning
Interacting with students can be tricky, particularly if you are seeking active engagement on sensitive topics. We’ve already written about how some educators are using audience response systems (ARS) to present interactive classroom programs on sexual health, but topics that are ostensibly far less delicate can also benefit from the use of a classroom response system.
Improve Peer Learning & Response Rate
Students will often strive to say nothing rather than ask questions about a subject with which they are unfamiliar, particularly if they believe that others are familiar with the subject and they would risk appearing foolish before their peers if they said anything. What these students might be surprised to learn is how many of their peers are as unfamiliar with certain topics as they are.
How Lectures and Workshops Become Interactive
A medical school instructor leading a workshop in countertransference to pediatric residents, for example, asked workshop participants how many were confident that they could explain the concept of countertransference. Had the instructor invited students to respond with a show of hands, the results might have been misleading—but because the instructor was using an ARS the students were able to provide their responses anonymously and the instructor discovered that none of the students responded with an unequivocal “yes.”
With that knowledge, the instructor realized that more foundational concepts needed to be presented up front before the other parts of the workshop—which would demand even more personalized responses that students might otherwise be reluctant to share—could move forward. Similarly, each student who anonymously but honestly indicated that they knew little about the topic could see on the screen in front of the workshop how many others were in the same boat—and realize that they were not alone.
Student Response Systems to the Rescue
When a classroom polling or student response system is configured to capture and present responses anonymously, there’s no risk of a student singling themselves out. The fear of ridicule and humiliation is eliminated, freeing students to be more forthcoming about their experiences, their understanding, and their concerns. These responses can provide an instructor with invaluable insight into the state of the classroom and whether students are grasping the key lessons and concepts they’re there to learn.
Studies of ARS in the classroom have also shown that ARS can improve student learning even when the subjects are not particularly sensitive. Research published in the American Journal of Roentgenology suggests that students using ARS in the classroom had significantly higher learning and longer-term retention scores than students who were not using ARS in the same classroom settings.