The University of Southampton
Institute for Learning Innovation and Development - Archived, not updated.TEL

Facilitating in-class interaction

Many tutors look for opportunities to embed activities in their lectures as a means of engaging and motivating their students, and especially to help them think about the material and enable real learning to take place. A common technique is to ask questions and use the students’ responses to check understanding and act as learning points. Unfortunately students who are not confident of the answer are unlikely to respond – and it is these students (and their misundstandings) who really need to be heard. The tutor can of course nominate (pick on!) individuals to answer a question, but that can cause a good deal of anxiety and may raise difficulties associated with culture, gender and learning differences.

Student Response Systems (SRS)

SRS technologies such as clickers (in-class wireless voting devices) and their web-based software equivalents enable all students to answer a question in a safe, anonymous way. The tutor sees a summary of their answers on-screen and gains useful feedback on any areas of difficulty so that they can either adapt their teaching to deal with those areas or move on swiftly if the students have firmly grasped the topic. The technology can also be used to gather student views or opinions, and the results used to stimulate in-class debate.

The greatest benefit, however, comes when SRS is used to support blended learning in which students study independently using carefully-structured online content and activities, then attend lectures which enable them to discuss and resolve any areas of difficulty. SRS is used to faciliate those discussions, check understanding and provide feedback. Peer Instruction is a sophisticated form of this approach.

TurningPoint clickers are widely used across the University, and many faculties have their own sets that tutors can use. There are also loan sets in the Library that any tutor can book and borrow. The University also has 250 ResponseWare licences that enable online voting.

ILIaD has a Student Response System special interest group and an associated mailing list.

Examples of use

Dr David Read (Chemistry) has made excellent use of clickers and they are widely used by the department.

Twitter

Some tutors use Twitter as a means of facilitating learning. Students can tweet questions or comments during a session, and by including a course hashtag (typically the module code) the tutor and other students can follow these. The tutor may use a second device (tablet or phone) to keep an eye on these during the session. The same hashtag can also be used to support independent study, enabling students to support each other and share resources that they have found.

Examples of use

Dr Jim Anderson (Maths) gained a VC Teaching Award in 2015 for “the adoption of Twitter in-class as a way of encouraging student engagement and questioning in real time in what may otherwise be an intimidating environment in which to ask for help or clarification. In addition, for the use of Storify to save the thread of questions, and instructor responses.”

Support and resources

If you would like to discuss the use of a SRS system or Twitter within your modules, please email ILIaDEDinn@soton.ac.uk and a member of the team will be in touch.

iSolutions support for TurningPoint clickers.

Information about the TurningPoint ResponseWare system.

Clicker resource guide: An instructors guide to the effective use of personal response systems (clickers) in teaching. University of Colorado Science Education Initiative & University of British Columbia Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. (2008). An excellent and inspirational guide!

Edudemic – Teachers guide to Twitter

Global Digital Citizen Foundation – Twitter-tastic teachers guide (packed with tips and ideas). 

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