Integrating a new design of teaching slides with active-learning measures in a large class

Katrina Ramsdell, Madeline Schreiber, Maura Borrego, Michael Alley

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In large classes, instructors often project and then post presentation slides to communicate important information. As recently shown, using teaching slides that have a succinct sentence headline supported by visual evidence, rather than the traditional phrase headline supported by a bullet list, has led to statistically significant increases in knowledge transferred and retained. The increases are even more pronounced when the assertion to be retained by the students appears in the slide's sentence headline. Having such a design for the teaching slides, though, has two disadvantages. One is that since the sentence headlines state the key assertions of the class, the instructor does not have as many opportunities to ask questions and therefore engage the class in an active way. A second is that because these slides stand as a complete set of notes, some students mistakenly assume that they need not attend class-they can just review the class by viewing the posted slides. This paper assesses a new approach that integrates this new design for teaching slides with two active learning measures in a large geosciences course (200 students) at Virginia Tech. One active learning measure consisted of creating two versions of the slides: a pre-lecture version and a post-lecture version. Because the pre-lecture version contained blanks to be filled in, the instructor had more opportunities to ask questions. In this study, the average number of questions that the instructor posed to the students increased from fewer than 5 (for previous semesters) to more than 20 (for this study's semester). Moreover, because of the blanks to be filled in during class, this version of the slides promoted note taking. Surveys of students indicate that 88 percent of enrolled students printed out these slides and brought them to class for taking notes. To promote attendance and to emphasize key concepts, a second active-learning measure was adopted: a multiple-choice quiz at the end of class that queried students on the information in the blank spaces of the pre-lecture slides. This measure encouraged students not only to attend class, but also to pay attention and take notes. The first goal was met, as indicated by the increase in attendance from an average 69% for sections taught in a traditional fashion to an average of 83% for the section taught with this new approach. A chi-square analysis showed that this difference is statistically significant (p < .001). The second goal was also met, as indicated by the high scores on the end-of-class quizzes: an average of 95%. To assess how much students retained information with this new approach, we compared the first examination scores on 20 questions for this class of 200 students with the scores on the same questions for similar-sized classes of students that learned with a traditional approach. Ten of these questions required the students to recall knowledge on the slides, and ten of these questions required students to comprehend information on the slides. The average on the 20 questions increased from 72% correct for students taught by the traditional approach to 79% correct for students taught by the new approach. A chi-square analysis showed that this difference is statistically significant (p < .001). On eight of the 20 questions, the increases of test scores were statistically significant, while on only one question was there a statistically significant decrease. Given the success of the new approach, we intend to use it in a large mechanical engineering course during the Spring 2006 semester.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2006
Event113th Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition, 2006 - Chicago, IL, United States
Duration: Jun 18 2006Jun 21 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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