Thursday, December 31, 2009

TurningPoint at Westfield State College

The TurningPoint @ CIT blog title portrays exactly what it is about. Most specifically, it revolves around TurningPoint use through CIT. Some professors at WSC have been using TurningPoint. This post focuses on one professor named Mike Young, the department chair for Physical Science, and a little of his adventures with the system.

Keeping things simple, I asked Mike five questions. Collectively, the questions pertained to the how and why of his using TurningPoint. Although the interview is outlined below, statements are paraphrased.

JBA: What motivated you to start using TurningPoint?
MY: I had read about the use of clickers in physics and astronomy classes, which I thought sounded like a good idea. Research suggested they had been effective; in those types of classes, at least.

JBA: Do you observe an improvement in your students' learning of the material?
MY: Well, I haven't done any actual analysis, but generally, yes. Seems useful in helping students to recognize what they know or don't know.

JBA: Are you ever surprised at the results of polling? For instance, seeing your students answer in ways you didn't expect?
MY: Yes. Sometimes I expect some answers not chosen by the students, but then turn out to be a common response. So this is helpful for me, too, to figure out what they know, or what their misconceptions are, and what I thought they know. The difficulty lies in guessing what those misconceptions are beforehand.

JBA: Would you recommend to other professors to start using TurningPoint? Why or why not?
MY: In some classes, it's useful. For example, astronomy for the concepts it has. I think in some courses, it might not work as well. But for the sciences in particular, it seems to work out. Asking questions that the students would answer based on memory doesn't really add much. But asking questions where the students have to apply concepts works out well.

JBA: Would you consider testing your students with TurningPoint?
MY: I may consider it, but generally I have stuck with the basics of TurningPoint, so making sure who has what clicker and other features would have to be factored in first.

Although these were the questions that I had asked Mike, he provided me with more feedback. One of the ideas about TurningPoint he feels is most useful is that it provides an excuse to have students talk to each other about the material. Particularly, to discuss concepts thought over in the clicker-based questions. Overall, this helps to break up the lecture some, and keeps students' attention span.

Within WSC, this post shows that TurningPoint very well may be a good choice to help students learn, and to help keep them engaged with the material. The end result? Students are provided with a better learning experience. Not only this, but professors are also provided with a better tool for assessing their students conception of the material.

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