Mimanifesto – Jaye’s weblog

Effective use of EVS in the classroom

Posted on: May 19, 2010

Electronic voting systems (EVS) are something I’ve been interested in for some time now.  Over the course of this academic year, I’ve had a small scale research project on the go with a couple of my first year classes. this was another collaboration with Glasgow University Psychology dept and was the subject of a recent honours thesis paper by the student who helped run the intervention. Basically, it involved tracking the attainment and achievement of two first year science classes over four ‘modules’ of a general science course. One class were taught using EVS to pose higher order ‘brain teaser’ type questions together with possible answers. the answers were recorded using the software in the programme (we used Turning Point handsets and software) and the class divided into groups of four. Each group chose two questions (from eight) and was tasked with explaining to the class not only which of the answers given was correct, but also why the others were incorrect. They did this in the form of presentations which involved practical experiments, ICT, posters, and even short plays !  My old wedding ring even got hammered by one group to demonstrate the metallic property of malleability…..

The higher order questions were constructed to get the children thinking in deeper and sometimes abstract ways, and used real life examples in order to attempt to contextualise the learning experience. So for example, instead of using the usual and sometimes oversimplified multiple choice style memory tests such as…”What colour is the sea?” followed by a list of colours, we might have put the question as….  “the sea appears blue. This is because…..” followed by four explanations. the children would then have to research the topic, with the help of the teacher and the other available resources in the classroom ( text books, other staff, and their laptop computers or mobile phones) put together their presentation explaining why their chosen answer was correct and also why the other options were incorrect.

Following all the presentations, we then retested the children using the same questions and EVS and compared the difference in the answer data from the responses given before the presentations.

Each topic was divided into three blocks of eight questions, and an end of topic test was used with both the intervention and control classes.

Initial analysis did not show any attainment gains which were statistically significant between the two classes, however the qualitative analysis from the children’s questionaires evaluating the project and interviews with a sample showed much positive impact upon engagement with learning. Such cognitive acceleration programmes used before have been shown to have a characteristic ‘delayed effect’ on learning skills with any improvement in learning kicking in after a period of at least six months ( i.e CASE and CAME). The research by Adey and Shayer  and Draper sets the scene for cognitive boosters and what Steve Draper refers to as “Catalytic Questioning” in his 2009 paper.

I suspect that if we test the children involved again in about six months with similar questions on the same subject matter, their recall of learning will be better than that of the control class. This is what I will be working towards after the summer break….

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