Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Online feedback exercises for acquiring basic concepts

 

Faculty: Arts. Programme: Educational Sociology. Course: Theories of Educational Sociology. Study level: Master's degree. Size of class: 70 students.

Brief description of the course

The module consists of thirteen lectures, each of which teaches the students one specific educational sociological theme/theory. The objective of the module is for the students to acquire knowledge about basic theoretical positions within educational sociology, and the ability to use these theories at higher taxonomic levels. The module is completed with an oral exam, at which the students must explain selected theoretical positions, assess the potentials and limitations of the theory, apply the theory to the analysis of issues, and provide a perspective on other theoretical positions.

Motivation

 

Students in this module found it difficult to cope with the large amount of new knowledge. Particularly as regards the many concepts associated with the different theoretical positions. Previously, the structure and teaching methods of the module were geared towards classical university pedagogy, including lectures for the students, who prepared for these by reading the set literature in their teaching plans before each session.

I developed this activity because there was a need among the students for a supplement to the reading of texts in order for the them to acquire a basic understanding of concepts.

Description

  • A number of multiple choice questions have been developed, which are then linked to the lecture about systems theory.
  • The students access the activity in BlackBoard, which includes a tab for exercises on theory.
  • They then begin to answer the questions. When they have clicked one of the answering options, they immediately receive feedback, which consists of a detailed explanation regarding wrong or correct answers. The feedback also includes a direct reference to a collection of literature which students can study to learn more about the specific topic; the teacher has also uploaded this in PDF files to BlackBoard. If an answer is incorrect, the question will reappear, and the student must select a new option until they provide the correct answer.
  • Once they have answered correctly and received feedback, the student can move on to the next question.


The activity can be used for:

  • Preparation for lectures
  • Follow-up on lectures
  • Preparation for exams

 

These three types of use are based on the student’s own work with the activity outside of teaching sessions. As a final possible type of use, the students can work with the activity in class, which offers the possibility to ask questions to the teacher.

Outcome

The activity has been tested to follow up on lectures and for exam preparation. Subsequently, it was evaluated in surveys and interviews with students; these show that the students’ experience of the activity was very positive. Particularly as a chance to use another method than simply reading texts when revising. Students found the feedback instructive, and they said it was a strength that the feedback was brief and precise, and that the literature references explain exactly which page numbers in the literature they should study to learn about the theme in question. Several students ask for this activity to be extended, so that a formative feedback exercise is included in all teaching sessions/theoretical positions in the module; the teaching team in the module intend to prepare this.

Worth considering

It is important to consider the taxonomic level in the activity. This type of activity is well suited to activate the students, for instance when revising theory and concepts, and to support their understanding of concepts. There is a risk, however, that the students study superficially, i.e. simply memorise concepts and their meaning. The aim of the module is to enable the students to use the theories at higher taxonomic levels, e.g. when analysing, discussing and assessing; the current design of this theory exercise does not accommodate this. It is therefore essential that the teacher trains such skills through other teaching activities.

However, the formative theory exercises do create a basic understanding of concepts and consequently a basis for the students to use the theories at higher taxonomic levels.

Another option is to consider if the formative feedback exercises may be designed in such a way that they are more likely to assist the students in finding the correct answer if they analyse and assess the questions. 

Activities

Examples of practice

Teaching plans

Under development


Links and materials for this example of practice: