Amy Skibiel

Lecturer, Biological Sciences Department
Auburn University

Rewarding students for classroom participation

Around mid-terms in the fall term, my Anatomy and Physiology students asked if I could provide a reward for classroom participation and a way to earn bonus points. Luckily for them, I had just learned about Learning Catalytics and thought I would give it a try. I decided to offer weekly quizzes for bonus points, based solely on participation, not the correct answer. I would lecture for the first half of class, deliver a question using Learning Catalytics, and give the students time to talk to their neighbor and use their notes to figure out the answer. After students had a chance to submit their answers, I would share the results of the quiz on their devices and explain the correct answer, question by question. My students loved the bonus points and sent me many positive messages during our initial "trial" runs.

Learning Catalytics allows me to give students a chance to learn and demonstrate core skills needed for success in their academic and professional careers, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills.

For the spring 2014 term, I have changed my implementation in a few ways:

  1. The quizzes now count towards the course grade (20 points total) and the students have to answer the questions correctly to receive the points. I still allow the students to use their books and class notes to arrive at an answer. Thus, the quizzes function as a review tool to help students figure out how to find information in their notes (a key study skill), how to synthesize the information learned in class, and how to apply that information to a novel situation (key critical thinking skills).
  2. Offer a bonus question with each quiz for extra credit points.
  3. Deliver a few questions interspersed throughout the lectures, mainly multiple choice, matching, short answer, and image upload questions, utilizing the peer learning capabilities.

At the right is a typical question that I ask students to answer in Learning Catalytics; it requires synthesis of information learned in class. To answer correctly, the students must know what the pericardial and abdominal cavities are, the anatomical directional terms, and the differences in directional terms for a human versus a four-legged animal. This question also exemplifies the benefits of using the peer-learning capabilities of Learning Catalytics. Students were first asked to answer the question independently (round 1) and then were paired with an individual seated close to them who submitted a different answer (round 2). Pairing was accomplished using the grouping function. The proportion of students answering the question correctly drastically improved after the students were allowed to work in pairs.

In the fall of 2014, I hope to incorporate Learning Catalytics more fully by progressing into more question formats and taking advantage of the Pearson-provided questions.

Lecturing doesn't offer much opportunity to teach students how to think; on the other hand, assigning a problem where content from class has to be applied to a new situation forces students to understand the material on a deeper level. Plus, since almost all of my students already own web-enabled devices and have Mastering with eText access, they love not having to buy a separate device or access too!