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Unpacking students’ situated knowledge and reflections in large lectures

Rune J. Krumsvik, University of Bergen

In large lectures, it is quite hard to involve and engage students, and if the teacher poses questions during the lecture, many students will refrain from raising their hands out of fear of being publicly embarrassed (Krumsvik, 2012). Consequently, it is hard for the lecturer to interact with the student and to know what the student understands or not during such lectures; it is also a challenge to know what they are actually discussing during peer discussions in these lectures.

‘It is hard for the lecturer to interact with the student and to know what the student understands or not during large lectures; it is also a challenge to know what they are actually discussing during peer discussions in these lectures.’

This blog post is based on the article, ‘Behind the scenes: Unpacking student discussion and critical reflection in lectures’, newly published in the British Journal of Educational Technology, which addresses these challenges and stems from a research project I initiated and developed in 2007–2008 as a result of my own teaching experiences in large lectures. The main aim with this project was to examine if, and eventually how, mediating artefacts could support formative assessment and feedback in large lectures. The project aimed to focus on educational technologies’ affordances in such settings and attempted to go behind the stereotypes about large lectures (150–250 students) and examine if it was possible to increase the interactivity and engagement in such lectures. Inspired by the socio-culturist James Wertsch’s ideas and reflections regarding ‘… how the introduction of novel cultural tools transforms the action’ (Wertsch, 1998, p. 42), I examined how different interventions with cultural artefacts, such as ‘student response technology’ (SRS) in combination with formative assessment, influenced psychology students’ perceptions around their engagement and learning outcome in such lectures.

After a three-year pilot period, I initiated the research project ‘Formative assessment in higher education’, where the purpose was to examine more thoroughly how well-planned teaching designs, student response systems and video case studies may play a role in transforming large lectures into a more student-centred way of organising learning and teaching.

In 2011 Kristine Ludvigsen and Kjetil Egelandsdal were employed as PhD candidates in my project, and we developed this further using design-based research and mixed methods. We also initiated a collaboration with Professor Roger Säljö, Professor Carl Wieman and with Professor Burke Johnson in order to improve our research design.

The article, ‘Behind the scenes: Unpacking student discussion and critical reflection in lectures’, builds on our previous studies in this research project (Krumsvik, 2012; Krumsvik & Ludvigsen, 2013; Ludvigsen, Krumsvik, & Furnes, 2015; Egelandsdal & Krumsvik, 2017; Egelandsdal & Krumsvik, 2017; Egelandsdal & Krumsvik, 2019). This latest article investigates the characteristics of peer discussions used to support formative assessment in lectures, facilitated by a student response system, in an undergraduate qualitative methods course for psychology students. The intent was to examine the characteristics of peer discussions in which student response systems are used to facilitate the practice of formative assessment lectures. To examine the characteristics of peer interactions, 87 student discussions were recorded and analysed. The concept of exploratory talk (Littleton & Mercer, 2013) was used as a lens to examine the discussions.

Our main findings in this study show that:

  • under certain circumstances large lectures can open dialogical spaces and provide students with rich opportunities to reflect on concepts and to develop their arguments
  • in 68 of the 87 discussions, the students exchanged ideas and elaborated on their peers’ ideas and understanding of the concepts – in the remaining 25 discussions the process of reasoning was less visible
  • students get feedback on their understanding of course content during the lecture
  • the students frequently articulated their uncertainty in the discussions and that the discussions are worthwhile for students to test out their knowledge with their peers.

This blog post is based on the article ‘Behind the scenes: Unpacking student discussion and critical reflection in lectures’ by Kristine Ludvigsen, Rune Johan Krumsvik and Jens Breivik, published in the British Journal of Educational Technology.


References

Egelandsdal, K., & Krumsvik, R. J. (2017). Clickers and formative feedback at university lectures. Education and Information Technologies, 22(1), 55–74.

Egelandsdal, K., & Krumsvik, R. J. (2017). Peer discussions and response technology: Short interventions, considerable gains. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 12(01–02), 19–30.

Egelandsdal, K., & Krumsvik, R. J. (2019). Clicker interventions at university lectures and the feedback gap. Nordic Journal of Digital Technology, 12(14), 70–87.

Krumsvik, R. (2012). Feedback clickers in plenary lectures: A new tool for formative assessment? In Rowan, L., & Bigum, C. (Eds.) Transformative approaches to new technologies and student diversity in futures oriented classrooms (pp. 191–216). Berlin: Springer.

Krumsvik, R. J., & Ludvigsen, K. (2012). Formative E-assessment in plenary lectures. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 7(01), 36–54.

Littleton, K., & Mercer, N. (2013). Interthinking: Putting talk to work. London: Routledge.

Ludvigsen, K., Krumsvik, R., & Furnes, B. (2015). Creating formative feedback spaces in large lectures. Computers & Education, 88, 48–63.

Ludvigsen, K., Krumsvik, R. J., & Breivik, J. (2020). Behind the scenes: Unpacking student discussion and critical reflection in lectures. British Journal of Educational Technology. Advance online publication. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bjet.12922 

Wertsch, J. V. (1998). Mind as action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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