Small Group Interaction in a Large Group Setting

More progress on the Post-Secondary front as 20 classrooms from the University of Michigan adopt software developed at the Ann Arbor campus’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.  The software, called LectureTools, allows students and professors to communicate in real-time during lectures.

This communication allows professors to pose questions of the class and get instant feedback from their students, who are using their smart phones, tablets, laptops, and other web-enabled devices to respond.  This provides a great deal of formative assessment information for the professor, who then can identify common misconceptions, and adjust their lecture as needed.

Students also have the ability to respond to questions that have been asked by other students.

Although the spirit of this has been accomplished with the use of clickers in many science and physics classrooms, there has long been a need in Humanities classrooms.

Purdue University has been on the forefront with the development and use of Hotseat.

What I think is missing from both LectureTools and Hotseat is the application and integration of learning pedagogy that supports the use of Accountable Talk, which makes students accountable to the learning community and encourages them to reflect upon, and build upon, the ideas of others.

I have tried to accomplish much of the same things as Purdue and the University of Michigan, while integrating the pedagogy of Accountable Talk, by lecturing with the use of a blog.  Throughout my lecture, I pose questions and problems that require critical thinking skills around the subject matter being learned and have the students discuss the questions with the students around them, using the Accountable Talk structure.  After a given amount of time, a representative from each group is invited to post the group’s response (not necessarily their answer) to the blog.  I then have a few minutes to vet the posts and proceed with my lecture as I see fit, based on the valuable feedback I now have.

In the cases of Purdue and the University of Michigan, and my own experiences with this, the students seem more than ready for this type of interactive lecturing.  Our students are Digital Natives and have Grown up Digital.  In addition to their being ready, I can anecdotally report that they seem to really enjoy my lectures much more than they did before I tried this out.  Also, my attendance has never been higher.  I believe the challenge echoes the same challenge that exists in K-12 education and can be found in another section of the Instructional Core.  Many teachers and professors are simply not yet comfortable with this major paradigm shift in education.


About mitchchampagne

I am a husband of one, and a father of three. I am am elementary teacher for the Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland & Clarington Catholic District School Board and a part-time Faculty member at the School of Education and Professional Learning, Trent University.
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