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Main EVS question types

(written by Steve Draper,   as part of the Interactive Lectures website)

Here are the main ideas about question types that emerged from the first semester of EVS use at GCAL in the business school.

Single questions

  1. Starting a lecture with a question already up and running. This reminds students that EVS will be used in this session, and gets them to find and switch on their handset as part of settling down. Of course this won't be very practical if the previous lecture over-ran, if the lecturer is late, if the equipment takes a long time to get up and running; but might be suitable if the room was vacant for the hour before, the lecturer is early, and the equipment starts up quickly and with no hitches.

  2. Discussion questions (no right answers), like survey questions. These are good for launching discussion between students, and they show everyone that this is an issue with a spread of opinion. They can be good at the start of a lecture (to launch the topic), at the end to get students starting their own thinking about the issues they've just heard about, or both (to show if any have changed their minds during the lecture). A variation: at the start ask the students to predict an effect you are going to talk about, and at the end of the lecture, revisit the question or issue.

  3. Past exam questions (where part of the exam is MCQs). This is good for warning students what is to come, and showing them whether or not they have actually understood the material well enough. It is both diagnostic and a motivator of the most direct and relevant kind. In addition, it can be linked with a reminder that other past questions are available on the VLE and should be used.

Other question types are discussed on the main website, particularly at:
  • qpurpose.html: Pedagogical formats for using questions and voting
  • qdesign.html: Question formats

    Designing several related questions

    1. Organising a lecture around a single question, which is put up at the start, but not voted on, to guide the audience's attention in the coming lecture. It would be voted on at the end. (This is not dissimilar to an older, non-EVS, practice of putting up an "agenda" of questions or issues for the audience to bear in mind while listening to the lecture i.e. it tells them the kinds of things to think about in judging the account offered to them.)

    2. Organising a lecture around a single question, multiple versions. Suppose the lecture is about concept C. Early on, can ask "Which of these is an example of a C?" and offer simple alternatives. (Many will get it right; and the alternatives could be used to link the concept to familiar cases already in their experience: good "constructivist" practice.) Later, can use the same question, but this time with all "distractor" items so it becomes a trick question with all answers wrong, underlining how the technical concept is not entirely straightforward and is distinct from everyday language use. Still later, could re-ask it with tricky alternatives: possibly ones that could be right in some circumstances and not others.

      Example: the Economics concept of "a public good": one which, like a lighthouse or street lighting, is non-excludable (can't stop people using it) and non rival in consumption (one person using it doesn't stop others).

    3. Revision session. Many courses have a revision session at the end, often poorly attended. They often feel flat and unproductive, with or without EVS, mainly because if the students don't say what they particularly need to hear then the lecturer can't really get to grips with real needs. One way round that, which has been successfully tried in one or two courses, is to plan such a session NOT as a fixed sequence of topics or questions BUT as a diagnostic process where the presenter uses the responses to questions to home in on what needs real time spent on it. It is one application of designing a contingent question set, where you come with a larger set of questions than you can use, and which get selected for use depends on how the audience answers earlier questions. A paper on doing this in a Statistics class is available:
      Wit,E. (2003) "Who wants to be... The use of a Personal Response System in Statistics Teaching" MSOR Connections Volume 3, Number 2: May 2003, p.5-11 (publisher: LTSN Maths, Stats & OR Network) (local copy).

    Other multi-question design ideas are discussed on the main website, particularly at:

  • contingent.html: Designing a contingent question set
  • manage.html: Designing and managing a teaching session

    Wider design: relating EVS to other learning resources and activities

    Finally, another issue is relating questions and EVS use to other learning resources and activities.

    For instance, you could launch a discussion question with a quick initial vote at the end of a lecture, not comment on the right answer but say the discussion will continue online, and seed a discussion forum on the VLE with the question and initial vote (barchart). Shortly before the next lecture, inspect the VLE discussion, then start the next lecture by referring to this and having another vote.

    Alternatively, end the lecture with a discussion vote, and then say that discussion will be launched in the seminars.

    Alternatively again, use the VLE forums to launch a discussion in advance of the seminars. And one way to define a discussion could be a set of questions as in [4] above, where simple and tricky versions together in effect define a topic.

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