Nancy Burnham’s Use of Pre-Lecture Quizzes and Mid-Lecture Breaks in Physics

Filed in engaging students in class by on January 18, 2016 0 Comments

BurnhamI give pre-lecture quizzes at the beginning of class. A few questions based on previous content helps the students settle into the material for the day and motivates them to keep on top of new content. Then, once or twice during the lecture, I’ll stop to change the pace.  The question(s) usually address the more difficult concepts in the material that I just presented.  If the students do badly on a question, I’ll ask them to defend their answer to their neighbors.  I love it when the classroom erupts in focused discussion!  When the noise level starts to die down, I ask the same question again.  It’s rare that they don’t do better.

I use both of these approaches in physics classes over about twenty-five students, and for classes as large as 200. I use clickers for both the pre-lecture quizzes and mid-class breaks, but the clickers are not essential.  Instead you can ask students to hold up the number of fingers that correspond to their answers.  You can estimate the prevalence of the answers and then tell the students if there is a consensus or not.  However, I think clickers are better, in that students feel more comfortable remaining anonymous, and they can see the quantitative results of the entire class.

More examples of clicker use in Physics and elsewhere on campus can be found in a recent post in the ATC’s Technology for Teaching and Learning blog.

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