Sometimes, in order to reap the greatest rewards, we need to take a risk. Of course, the problem is that risks are risky, and the prospect of failure looms, which we usually don’t perceive as rewarding. If only we had the opportunity for a do-over…
[Check out this short film when you have some time… it’s charming.]
Our students are frequently faced with the opportunity for productive risk — particularly when it comes to in-class discussion. We know that active engagement in the classroom is positively associated with learning gains (Tinto, 1997), and in-class participation is an important component of student engagement (Handelsman et al., 2005). For the Millennial students currently in our classrooms, class discussions can be a powerful way to leverage some of their generational traits for learning (e.g., their desire for an active learning environment and their egalitarian belief that all voices should be heard); however, other traits (e.g., their sensitivity to criticism) can make them risk-averse when it comes to the prospect of ‘being wrong’ in the classroom (Roehling et al., 2011).
Our Millennials also crave achievement and can be consumer-oriented when it comes to the cost-benefit analysis of their personal efforts in the learning department. That’s where the innovative advice of Jefferson College’s Lisa Pavia-Higel, recently published in Faculty Focus, comes in. She suggests that we can stimulate student participation in class discussions by leveraging the current wave of “gamification” of the learning experience (i.e., strategies that “focus on what games do for brain processes and tr[y] to bring that into the learning environment”). In brief: offering “mulligan” credits to apply in subsequent exams can both incentivize active class participation and reduce student test anxiety at the same time.
This strategy, an alternative approach to both “participation grades” and “extra credit,” has the tantalizing possibility of encouraging otherwise risk-averse students to put themselves out there in the classroom, where we want them to engage. It also fosters the active and welcoming environment for participation Millennials crave.
So… consider going out and buying some stickers???
Handelsman, M.M., Briggs, W.L., Sullivan, N., and Towler, A. (2005). A measure of college student course engagement. The Journal of Education Research, 98(3), 184-192.
Roehling, P.V., Vander Kooi, T.L., Dykema, S., Quisenberry, B, and Vandlen, C. (2011). Engaging the millennial generation in class discussions. College Teaching, 59, 1-6.
Tinto, V. (1997). Classrooms as communities: Exploring the educational character of student persistence. Journal of Higher Education, 68(6), 599-623.
AUGUST 18, 2014
By: Lisa Pavia-Higel in Teaching and Learning
When I speak with other professors who work extensively in the classroom, we often find that we share many of the same challenges. Students’ lack of classroom participation in discussion and test anxiety are two of the most common. Many professors try to mitigate these issues through two time-honored pedagogical tactics: a participation grade and extra credit questions on tests. While both tactics can be effective, by applying concepts from gamification research I found a way to both enhance classroom participation and reduce test anxiety with one simple technique.