Increase participation by reducing anxiety

Andrew Rancer likes to ask questions.

A professor emeritus in the University of Akron’s School of Communication, Dr. Rancer has always kept his classes interactive by peppering queries throughout his lectures. This technique helps to maintain a lively atmosphere and reinforce important information at the same time.

Communication research, a class he teaches regularly, is well-suited for this technique in many respects. Since students often find the material difficult, an engaged classroom where everyone feels comfortable asking and answering questions is an ideal learning environment. However, unlike in his other communication courses, he discovered students in the research methods course were hesitant to participate.

For especially difficult content courses, I think that Turning Technologies’ student response is essential.

During one memorable after-class conversation, a student even shared how much he dreaded being called on for fear of public embarrassment. Rancer was taken aback by that encounter, which caused him to re-evaluate his approach teaching this particular class.

Enthusiasm instead of fear

His search for a solution to this problem led him to student response technology nearly 15 years ago. He was particularly drawn to the fact that every student could reply, but only aggregate responses would be on display. That way, no individual student would have to feel bad for not knowing the answer.

According to Rancer, “It makes their responses completely anonymous, and it allows them to respond to your queries in a very safe way.”

Now, when he asks interactive questions throughout his lectures, it is with the help of TurningPoint response technology. He has observed that not only are students more comfortable participating, but also that the technology has opened the door to more collaborative learning in the form of peer instruction, which gives them the power to “teach each other and reach each other perhaps as well if not better than I can.”

Increased engagement is also a bonus, with Rancer enthusing that TurningPoint makes students more comfortable in class at the same time as it helps them resist the temptation to “mentally drop out.” He even compared his class atmosphere to that of a quiz show, with interactive questions making students truly think about the material and get excited about whether or not they chose the correct answer.

“[TurningPoint] not only helps me as an instructor get through to the students, it helps them learn the material and get more motivated to learn the material,” he said. “For especially difficult content courses, I think that Turning Technologies’ student response is essential.”