Engaging students with interactive learning

Andrew Misko, a lecturer in the School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Toledo, decided from the beginning that his classes should be interactive learning experiences.

“I didn’t want it to be how it’s classically taught, where I’m just up there using the lecture slides and talking,”’ he said. “I feel like, with it being 2018 and every student having a tablet or a laptop or a smartphone, I wanted to take advantage of that.”

Portrait of Andrew Misko

“With interactive learning, I think it gives a chance for students to use a tool or technology in the classroom that helps supplement learning rather than just jotting down notes.”

However, with his Introduction to Exercise Science class often having close to 100 students, it was challenging to break away from lecture mode and get every student involved.

What is interactive learning?

Interactive learning is a technique that seeks to get students actively engaged in the learning process, often through the use of technology. This is in contrast to more passive techniques like the traditional lecture.

“With interactive learning, I think it gives a chance for students to use a tool or technology in the classroom that helps supplement learning rather than just jotting down notes,” he said.

In addition to increased engagement, active learning theories – ranging from enhanced lecture to peer instruction – have been shown through research to improve both learning and student performance. Misko asked himself how he could incorporate such strategies into even his largest class, and found that TurningPoint was the answer.

Introducing TurningPoint

Having first used TurningPoint at Toledo as an undergraduate student, Misko thought it might be a valuable tool now that he was teaching a class of his own. After a quick session with the University Teaching Center to familiarize himself with the software, he ran a pilot over the summer to find out.

By incorporating TurningPoint questions into his PowerPoint lecture slides, Misko noticed a difference right away. Whereas before, most classes would be dominated by the same students answering questions, now he was able to hear from everybody and adjust his teaching accordingly.

“I can see what percentage of the class is understanding content that I just talked about,” he said. “Yesterday, I asked a question about histology and the study of tissues, and I wanted to see how many students knew what that was, and a good chunk of them did. So, that gives me an idea of what they know and what they don’t know.”

The students, who can use either clickers or their own mobile devices, likewise enjoy using the technology because answering interactive questions lets them participate more often, serves as a useful review of the material and gives them a snapshot of their own understanding as well as their classmates’.

According to Misko, “Over the summer, I think students liked it because they would typically ask ‘Hey, are we doing TurningPoint today?’ They could see where they were and how they might compare to other students in real time.”

After a successful pilot, he has incorporated TurningPoint into his class this semester and, based on his experience and student feedback, looks forward to using it into the future.