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Northwest Missouri State University


Dan Smith

Dan Smith

Mr. Dan Smith, Assistant Professor
History/Humanity/Philosophy/Political Science Department
eInstruction - Classroom Performance System

Engaging students in lectures and gauging students' comprehension through real-time data are two reasons Dan Smith, Assistant Professor of History/Humanity/Philosophy/Political Science is utilizing the eInstruction's classroom performance system (CPS) in his classes.

Dan uses the CPS units pretty much every day in his Intro American Government (GenEd) class for purposes of monitoring attendance, quizzing over the assigned readings, providing regular feedback throughout class, illustrating concepts, and generating discussion. These techniques provide instant feedback regarding student understanding for Dan as he teaches and also display instantaneous visual information for the students.

Dan uses PowerPoint presentations in class and prepares in advance anywhere from 4-20 multiple choice and true/false questions per topic. Questions are spaced throughout the lecture/discussion (and are indicated on his copy of the PowerPoint, so he knows when he has a question available). Some questions test knowledge of basic concepts covered in the reading or current events. These are usually asked as a topic is introduced, and if the class does well (and/or there are no questions), they move on; otherwise he will go over the concept. Other questions are used to introduce a new concept. He frequently explains these in more detail using the CPS results screen (i.e. why each answer is correct or incorrect) and typically omits these questions from the students' quiz scores.

Dan also frequently asks opinion or basic knowledge questions in class regarding political events or controversies. These questions are used to generate discussion and/or to illustrate patterns of public opinion. Particularly in a large introductory class, students are far more likely to express and defend their position on a controversial issue when a CPS question has already demonstrated that 15 classmates agree with their position.

Regarding illustrations, while covering the federal bureaucracy, Dan asked two CPS questions about students' interaction with Northwest administrative offices: (1) a standard "favorable/neutral/unfavorable" attitude question, and (2) a ranking of frequency of interaction with such offices. He used the cross-tabulation tool to demonstrate that attitudes are much more favorable among those who interact with administrators on a regular basis, which is consistent with most studies governing attitudes towards the bureaucracy (negative in the abstract, but positive regarding actual interactions). The students will remember this concept far better due to the illustration. He also cross-tabulated responses to the statement: "The judiciary is too powerful" with partisan affiliation (Republican/Independent or Undecided/Democratic). The class then discussed why Republicans might have a more negative view of the judiciary, supplemented by another question regarding the partisan make-up of the federal judiciary. The students, like the public at large, believed the judiciary to be roughly equally divided, when it is actually 70-30 Republican.

eInstruction and the CPS units gives the students immediate feedback with the opportunity for the instructor to explain, in real time, concepts they may be having difficulty with. It enables illustration of concepts, allows the use of the students' own characteristics and opinions in illustrations, and it stimulates discussion. It does all of this without the need for any additional time spent grading, and all questions asked/answered are available in a wide assortment of formats for the instructor to analyze. All questions/answers and scores are also available on the CPS website for students to review. They can even generate a study guide based on the questions used in class.

For additional information about eInstruction and the CPS unit, click on the following link: http://www.einstruction.com/Solutions/HigherEd/index.cfm If you would like to incorporate the use of eInstructions's CPS in your classes, please contact the CITE Office.