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A Comparison And Evaluation Of Personal Response Systems In Introductory Computer Programming

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Use of Technology to Improve Teaching and Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.24.1 - 11.24.15



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Paper Authors

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K-Y Daisy Fan Cornell University

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Clare van den Blink Cornell University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A comparison and evaluation of personal response systems in introductory computer programming

1. Introduction

Personal response systems (PRS) are being used in classrooms in order for the instructor to obtain real-time feedback on student comprehension of presented concepts. A typical PRS comprises hand-held transmitters, or “clickers,” for students to submit answers, receivers that collect the answers, and software that creates the question slides and displays the statistics of the student answers in real time.

In a traditional lecture where the instructor does most of the talking, students are passive, especially in a large lecture hall where students have few opportunities or incentives to ask or answer questions. Even when the instructor asks for responses from students, typically the same small number of students would choose to participate. “The large- lecture syndrome is well known: the professor solemnly expounds his materials, the class passively absorbs it. The professor obtains no feedback and the students scribble notes mechanically…. The major problem to be overcome is the lack of two-way communication between the teacher and the students” 1 A proposed solution to the lack of interactivity in a large lecture is the use of personal responses systems. One of the first hard-wired PRS system was installed for physics education in 1972. In recent years, the development of portable radio frequency PRS systems and associated software has made it feasible to implement a PRS system in classrooms. PRS can be used to provide an “anonymous” way for students to answer questions posed by the instructor, circumventing the discomfort that some students feel about speaking in front of a large class.

Many research studies have looked at the use of PRS, or polling, and have noted positive impacts on learning. However, the comparisons of student learning and engagement have been made across semesters for a course and often with polling and other teaching techniques, such as peer instruction, being introduced at the same time. Therefore, the impact of the use of PRS alone has not been determined conclusively. In order to overcome the limitations of the previous studies, this study is designed to compare the use of polling and teaching techniques between two sections of the same course taught by the same instructor with the same assessment instruments in one semester. Interactive lecture techniques and discussion questions are used in both course sections, but the use of PRS is implemented in only one section.

This study explores the following question: Does the use of PRS increase student engagement during class and improve student understanding of course material? The evaluation methodology includes student surveys, student interviews, classroom observations, and a quantitative analysis of the students’ final exam scores.

2. Literature Review

Fan, K. D., & van den Blink, C. (2006, June), A Comparison And Evaluation Of Personal Response Systems In Introductory Computer Programming Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1415

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