Benefits of Using Student Response Systems in Large Classes
By GSTA Steering Committee Members
Kelly Gonzalez-Stewart and Madeline Bruce
Many of us know the controlled chaos of a classroom with hundreds of students, either as a student ourselves or as the instructor. In either role, it can be difficult to be seen and heard, leaving students perhaps feeling overwhelmed and overlooked at times. For instructors, not only is it challenging to get to know your students, but it can also be difficult to identify students struggling in a course so large. Recording student participation in larger classes is important to mitigate these issues and introduce many benefits into your classroom for both instructors and students. In this month’s GSTA corner, Kelly Gonzalez-Stewart and Madeline Bruce highlight some important reasons and methods for recording and managing student presence and participation in larger classes.
What is a Student Response System (SRS)?
A student response system is an instructional technology that can be used in a classroom to collect answers to questions from every student during the class, and their answers can be displayed in class or used to create a data report of the students’ responses. Students typically answer from their personal technologies. There are many ways a student response system can help instructors gain valuable information about their class.
There are a range of technologies such as Mentimeter, Kahoot, iClicker, Poll Everywhere, and more that allow a high volume of student responses. Regarding accessibility and equity, consideration for costs associated with the tool implemented is important. Requiring clickers linked to costly programs or websites for student response systems can be disadvantageous for some departments and teachers by adding the cost to the department or to the individual students. Consider using free or reduced cost subscriptions to websites that are affordable and do not raise the cost of the class for students/departments.
Reason #1: Students can help take attendance!
Student response systems are websites (sometimes programs or subscriptions) where students can record their name and answer questions created by the instructor. If you have a participation requirement in your syllabus, you can use the responses recorded by students to track attendance. You can also gauge participation by viewing how many responses each student provides and the accuracy of those responses. This can be an improved alternative or used in combination with attendance sign-in sheets, and it can track the student engagement and understanding of the content. Examples can be questions pulled from exams directly, retention questions regarding lesson content, or even just asking the students to reflect on how they’re feeling with open responses.
Reason #2: Keeping attendance keeps students engaged during class.
Using student response systems can help alleviate distractions in the classroom by giving the students an opportunity to interact with the content of the lecture and can assess immediate understanding of the material. Some platforms allow an instructor to host competitions that can be an engaging and fun exercise! This is a helpful way for students to interact with peers and the content in a large class size and increase participation.
Reason #3: Provides initial feedback on student understanding.
An instructor can prompt questions throughout their lecture and adapt their explanation of the material depending on the student responses in the moment, which is helpful when you are addressing more challenging topics. Teachers can use the accuracy of the student responses to proactively reach out to independent students that may be struggling, or it can be a “self-check” for students to ask instructors for recommendations to study frequently missed concepts.
Reason #4: Responses can be used for valuable feedback.
As last month’s issue addressed student evaluation feedback, student response systems can help prepare for feedback at the end of the year by adding checkpoints throughout the semester to provide feedback. Students can answer confidentially in open responses about what is working for them in the course and what is posing as a greater challenge. As teachers, this can be a way to gain insight and make incremental adjustments to the curriculum if necessary.