An easy data collection tool is helping lecturers understand whether students find exercises difficult or boring.

Students' emotional state influences their learning. For example students who find classroom exercises both difficult and boring, or who have no clear plan for how to solve a problem they are presented with even if they are familiar with the content, are more likely to struggle as the course progresses. But although this affect data would be useful for lecturers to know, collecting such data has usually required a large investment of time and resources.

Lecturers Krissi Wood and Joy Gasson with former colleagues Dale Parsons and Patricia Haden developed an easy data collection tool to overcome this hurdle. After each class session in which a practical exercise was performed, students are asked three questions. It takes them about 10 seconds to put a dot on each of three two-dimensional graphs to record their experience of the class. One graph asks about difficulty and interest, to observe the extent to which perceived challenge is related to engagement. The second graph asks about planning and familiarity. Satisfaction and improvement are paired in the third graph.

The results were correlated against student performance, which confirmed that students who felt more triumphant, have clear plans, and feel like they are improving are those who tend to get better grades. The tool might therefore help lecturers identify at any earlier stage which students are likely to need additional support in order to succeed. The tool also revealed which classroom exercises are most difficult or boring for students. The team are now working on web-based implementation of the tool, which will automate reporting.

May 2018