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Text Messaging Welcome in Rutgers Class – and Students Retain More
Jessica Methot's polling techniques put a stop to ‘social loafing’ during lectures
With 80 students in her weekly “Introduction to Human Resources Management” course, Jessica Methot found herself confronted with a common challenge for 21st-century educators.
Many students used electronic devices to connect with their world outside the classroom instead of engaging in class discussions. "I struggled with how to curtail the social loafers -- the students who rely on the most talkative few to answer questions." said Methot, an assistant professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations.
Like other instructors, Methot had prohibited the use of laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices during class. But by the third or fourth week of the semester, many students were bringing their laptops, and, she said, “I had lost the energy to remind them to put the devices away.”
It was clear that aside from taking notes, the students were also surfing the Internet, checking Facebook, and answering emails, making it difficult for Methot to gauge their understanding of the course. So she sought a solution that would not only improve participation but also provide the feedback necessary to develop her course and ensure student success.
The remedy came in the form of polling: an idea that some teachers are experimenting with to integrate technology into their lectures. Using a program called “Poll Everywhere,” Methot posed three-to-five questions per class on a range of HR topics to which students could respond in a variety of contemporary ways, such as texting, submitting their answers online, or Tweeting. Submissions were aggregated and displayed in real-time on a classroom projector, permitting Methot the dual benefit of automatically receiving feedback while monitoring attendance.
Students responded positively. "Being able to use my cell phone as a means of participation in the classroom was a great experience. It took the burden off having to raise my hand and answer a question verbally just to prove that I understood the material,” says Courtney Schaefer, a sophomore.
Since instituting the polling method, Methot has seen a marked improvement in her classes. Students in classes where she uses polls have scored, on average, three points higher per exam over those taught traditionally.
“They’re doing better because they’re more engaged in a process that allows them to embrace rather than eliminate their dependence on technology,” Methot said. “Plus, it’s been fun for me as well.”