2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:25 AM


NAGY-SHADMAN, Elizabeth A., SAVAGE, Karen and SCOTT, Craig R., Department of Geological Sciences, California State Univ, Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330-8266, elizabeth.nagy@csun.edu

Electronic student response technology (SRT) was introduced on an experimental basis in 2004 in physical and earth science courses at California State University, Northridge. Initially the publisher provided the system in conjunction with textbooks used in large physical science courses, requiring students to purchase some materials at nominal costs. Successful preliminary results of trial runs and envisioned future applications influenced the Department of Geological Sciences to purchase the system. This eliminated student costs and a problematic student registration process, and provided the department the freedom to use the SRT in other earth science classes in which the publisher’s textbooks were not necessarily used.

The SRT system was used each class period to ask several multiple-choice questions about current course topics. Questions either covered new material or focused on topics that the instructor believed should have already been mastered by the class. Each student would choose an answer anonymously by pushing a button on their personal response pad. This gave students a chance to test their knowledge without penalty or judgment from peers for answering incorrectly. After answers were chosen, every question was immediately followed by a screen-projected histogram showing tallied class responses, thus providing material for discussion. Identification of common science-related misconceptions was particularly interesting to students and could be discussed and clarified immediately.

Advantages of SRT are manifold. Student participation and interest is greatly increased. The immediate feedback allows the instructor to know whether or not the class is ready to advance to the next topic. Students learn instantly why wrong answers are incorrect. The software allows the instructor to track answers of individual students even though class responses are displayed anonymously. The system can also be used to record daily attendance and to elicit student feedback regarding course content and style. Disadvantages include the instructor’s time spent learning how to use the system, developing and inputting questions (although verbal questions can also be posed), set-up or hardware problems, potential cost to students, and the 10-15 minutes of expended class time usually slotted for other activities.