CAN A REMOTE CONTROL RESPONSE SYSTEM IMPROVE STUDENTS´ PERFORMANCE IN GROUP PROBLEM SOLVING?

By the expedient of posing straightforward questions to our students during the practice sessions after the explanation of some concepts, we have over-the-years faced a very mean response from a large fraction of our students who stay in a passive attitude. Moreover, when we interact with them in tutorials (in passing we remark that these are often the most accomplished and dedicated students) they frankly admit frequently to mere copyists.

Therefore, in order to cope with this problem we have implemented a remote control electronic response system in our teamwork practice sessions, which all in all comprise 143 students. Basically, this system entails interspersing, among the ordinary slides of a presentation, some special, interactive slides which are fitted with the controls of the remote control response system and which provide the capability for interactive dialogue. In the so called response period, students have to make a definite choice among the possible answers displayed on the slide with the help of the remote control response system. As students cast their answers, the screen shows which controls have pending or issued responses. At the end of the response period of each slide, you can display the graph with the answer statistics and also the correct response.

With the help of this system we can, in principle, expect to increase the students’ attention span and to improve their retention of concepts through the enhanced interactivity afforded by the use of the commands. We also aim to improve productivity in the spent time in the classroom and to encourage the student participation; it’s noteworthy how the use of controls provides shelter and eases the participation of even the shyest students. The advantages of the system are at least twofold: first, it allows the students to compare their opinion/answer between them and, specifically, the correction of the test being immediate, to perform a continuous formative assessment. Second, the teacher can know the evolution of the student's learning process right after the explanations.

We have also evaluated the degree of acceptance that the whole system has received from the students. To this end we have conducted surveys of opinion through which we intend to measure the degree of satisfaction in using the tool and the so-to-speak sensation of efficiency it produces. Additionally, in order to analyze the questionnaires and the results of surveys, we have had the valuable collaboration of a small group of four volunteer students whose work has greatly enriched the analysis performed.

In summary, the main conclusions that we have obtained are that most students like the system, that they feel it increases the workload with no waste of time. On the contrary, they have not noticed (or maybe we have not enquired properly) any substantial improvement in learning with the help of this system. Finally, note also that the undertakings of the Working Group have amounted to a very positive experience for all the people involved, students and lecturers alike.