Voting in the classroom

Course Basic Mathematics in Psychobiology
Lecturer Marthe Schut
Context This course (250 students) covers Calculus techniques from a basic level (fractions, exponentials, logarithmic functions) to a more advanced level (complex numbers, differential equations etc.) including several applications of the given mathematical techniques in the field of Psychobiology.
Challenge Shy students hesitated asking questions
Intervention Use a live, online voting tool during the practice sessions
Evaluation From the teacher’s point of view it seems that students ask questions more easily
Related Topics Large groupsStudent activationMethods to enhance interaction in the classroomVoting in the classroom

Interview with Marthe Schut

Can you tell something about your course before the innovation?
Previous year we replaced the traditional lectures by classes in which we use a combination of traditional lecturing and practice sessions in the e-learning system SOWISO. The students were more focussed during classes and the overall course seemed more appealing. However, we noticed that the rather shy students still hesitated to ask questions.

What intervention was chosen?
We have chosen to replace the practice sessions with quizzes in Shakespeak.

Did it solve the issue?
From the teacher’s point of view it seems that students ask questions more easily. Since they have to apply the explained techniques in the quiz, they really seem to want to understand the concepts. Furthermore, when the answers on a question divert, we let the students discuss the matter amongst each other and vote again. In this way the more shy students are addressed as well since they can contemplate with other students.

Are you going to use it again?
I will continue to incorporate voting systems in my lectures. Since the students already work on their laptops, the voting possibilities of Shakespeak (via a website or via messaging), are very good. At some point it would be useful to be able to incorporate an online system suitable for mathematical expressions (or even better; a system that can be used on top of a latex Beamer presentation).

How much (extra) work did it cost you?
Unfortunately, Shakespeak is not necessarily intended for mathematical expressions. It took some trial and error to work around this issue. Splitting the screen with Latex beamer slides on one side and the PowerPoint presentation with Shakespeak on the other side works quite well (the PowerPoint slides only contain question numbers and the letters for the answers).

Do you recommend this approach to other lecturers?
I certainly recommend to use a quiz system during lectures. It activates the students and ‘forces’ them to apply the explained concepts immediately.