Insights and resources to support better data analysis in education
By Andrew Carlin
Active learning has been found to improve engagement and learning; however, its implementation needs to be carefully designed and applied. Active learning can be conducted through 'Flipped Classrooms', during which students read lecture content ahead of the class and construct activities for the classes. Students are therefore in control of their learning and are required to take responsibility for it, with guidance from the lecturer.
However, some resist the change and prefer being taught in a traditional format, and the quantity of preparation time needs to be balanced such that students are not overwhelmed with work. Additionally, management of the learning objectives needs to be maintained, such that the student is still fully aware of what is expected of them and the desired outcomes of the class. Proactive management is crucial to ensure the newly found degree of autonomy does not lead the students away from the learning outcomes of the class. If not managed correctly, this can lead to additional workloads for both the students and the lecturer, which may be unproductive in the long run.
A simpler solution has been the implementation of in-class polling, which has been found to support learning and improve engagement. This does not result in some of the discussed complexities while allowing students to articulate their own understanding and knowledge.
A ‘halfway house’ between polling and the flipped classroom is ‘Quectures’. With the motivation of improving student engagement, Quectures require students to engage with pre-lecture content and in-lecture student-led questions while retaining a blend of student-led and instructor-led periods of the class. Thus, a balance is maintained between active and passive learning, reducing the chances of the student becoming ‘cognitively’ overloaded. The method has been implemented with the use of a mobile app, in which the learning objectives for the next class are sent to the student ahead of time. The student is asked to consider the objectives and is referred to pre-lecture material on their VLE. About an hours’ worth of material (readings, videos, inactive activities) plus a short quiz are required prior to the lecture. In particular, the quiz ends with an open-ended question, which aims to engage the student in the topic for their upcoming lecture.
During the class, students are asked to submit questions they have about the learning topics before discussing their questions with their peers. This overcomes the issue of students making their own misconceptions about the topics in advance of the lecture and allows any particular issues to be tackled directly in real-time with the expert advice of their lecturer. Their questions are all fed to the lecturer via the app, who may choose to address the most popular questions during the lecture. Subsequently, other questions can be answered outside of the lecture or at the subsequent lecture. Additionally, these questions can be revisited at a later date, potentially during an end-of-term review session.
Like all new methods, careful design and implementation of this methodology is required. Studies purely based on in-class polling indicate that the use of mobile phones is less effective than dedicated polling devices. The quantity of pre-lecture material should be carefully engineered to ensure students are not overwhelmed. Additionally, a strategy for answering questions should be devised and communicated with the students so they are ‘on-board’ with the new methodology and the value of their input.
[Source Paper] McQueen, Heather A, and McMillan, Craig. "Quectures: Personalised Constructive Learning in Lectures." Active Learning in Higher Education 21.3 (2020): 217-31.
 Stowell, Jeffrey R. "Use of Clickers vs. Mobile Devices for Classroom Polling." Computers and Education 82 (2015): 329-34. Web.
 Aceti, Victoria. "Perceptions of the Effects of Clicker Technology on Student Learning and Engagement: A Study of Freshmen Chemistry Students." Research in Learning Technology 20.2 (2017): 16150-11. Web.
 Stevens, Niall T, McDermott, Hélène, Boland, Fiona, Pawlikowska, Teresa, and Humphreys, Hilary. "A Comparative Study: Do "clickers" Increase Student Engagement in Multidisciplinary Clinical Microbiology Teaching?" BMC Medical Education 17.1 (2017): 70. Web.