Fostering active learning through the use of feedback technologies and collaborative activities in a postsecondary setting



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Technology is enjoying an increasingly important role in many collegiate pedagogical designs. Contemporary research has become more focused on the ways that technology can contribute to learning outcomes. These studies provide a critical foundation for educational researchers who seek to incorporate and reap the benefits of new technologies in classroom environments. The aim of the present study is to empirically assess how combining an active, collaborative learning environment with a classroom response system (colloquially called “clickers”) in a postsecondary setting can influence and improve learning outcomes. To this end, the study proposes an instructional design utilizing two feedback response-formats (clickers and flashcards) and two response methods for answering in-class questions (collaborative peer instruction and individual). The theoretical bases that provide the academic structure for the five instructional conditions (control, clicker-response individual, clicker-response peer instruction, flashcard-response individual, and flashcard-response peer instruction) are the generative learning theory and social constructivism. Participants were 171 undergraduate students from an Educational Psychology subject pool from a large Southwest university. The researcher used a two-way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) with two treatments (response format and collaboration level) as the between-subjects factors; students’ posttest scores as the dependent variable; and pretest scores as the covariate. Results showed no significant main effects; however, the study produced statistically significant findings that there was an interaction effect between the use of clickers and a peer instruction design. To follow up the interaction, the researcher conducted tests of the simple effects of response format within each collaboration condition, with the pretest as the covariate. Results showed that for students who collaborated, clickers were better than flashcards, whereas when students worked individually, there was no difference. This study builds upon existing studies by using a stronger empirical approach with more robust controls to evaluate the effects of a variety of instructional interventions, clicker and flashcard response systems and peer instruction on learning outcomes. It shows that clicker technology might be most effective when combined with collaborative methods. The discussion includes implications, limitations, and directions for future research.