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Summary of pedagogic purposes for EVS

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

This page is an attempt to keep an up to date, complete list in one place of the different pedagogical purposes that EVS can be used for. For explanations of what is meant in more detail, you'll either have to look at a 2001 paper presenting some of them here or a page on (some) alternative question types for different purposes, and how to create them.

High level purposes or functions


  1. Diagnostic SAQs ("self-assessment questions"), to allow each student to measure the state of their understanding at the moment.
  2. Questions to drill down to find and address problems. Essentially a tree of questions, that change what the teacher does in the session: "contingent teaching".
  3. To initiate a discussion. I.e. ask a brain teaser, do not tell the audience what the right answer is. As in Mazur's method of "peer instruction" or more generally what Hake calls "Interactive engagement". This is one of the few uses of educational technology that has been shown to produce large positive effects on learning measured in objective tests.
  4. A problem or proof is worked through by the presenter, subdivided into a number of stages. At the end of each stage, the audience answers a question e.g. on what the result of that step should be. It's a way of keeping the audience and presenter in step through a long multi-stage argument.
  5. Course feedback: asking students about aspects of the course: Formative feedback to the teacher.
  6. Practice exam, where the answers are keyed in rather than written by students, and the results can be compiled and commented on, and discussed by students with staff all in one session.
  7. Peer assessment could be done on the spot, saving the teacher administrative time and giving the learner much more rapid, though public, feedback.
  8. Community mutual awareness building. At the start of any group e.g. a research symposium or the first meeting of a new class, the equipment gives a convenient way to create some mutual awareness of the group as a whole by displaying personal questions and having the distribution of responses displayed.
  9. Collecting data in experiments using human responses:
  10. Have student (groups) design EVS questions and present them as part of talks given to the rest of their class. The discussion that ensues during the design of the questions, alternative responses, and justifications to be used when explaining the answers, can be highly generative of learning.

Social and individual benefits

Besides the lists above, however, another way of looking at it that may be fruitful, is to consider that EVS generally simultaneously serves two different kinds of function: promoting individual learning, and promoting an integrated, functioning learning community. Most applications do both to some extent. For instance, a set of quiz questions might seem to be designed to allow an individual to check their own learning privately and anonymously: but it actually simultaneously makes each learner aware of how they compare to the class as a whole overall and on each question. This is often important in making learners feel comfortable asking for explanations (many others clearly need it too) from either teachers or peers; and it makes the teacher feel in touch with the current level of understanding in the class.

But perhaps it isn't exactly "social". There are three parties here: the learner as individual, the teacher, and the group as a whole. EVS keeps them mutually aware of each other's position.

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