Effective Practices for Implementing Top Hat

The effectiveness of audience response technology for asking meaningful questions is largely dependent on the quality of instruction, interaction, and classroom management.

Set Student Expectations

Let students know that interactive audience response technology has a purpose in your classroom and will be used for collecting participation and performance points. Explain how frequently interactive questions will be asked and how student responses might affect final grades. If extra credit is given for answering some questions, clearly describe when and how such extra-credit opportunities will arise.

Emphasize what other benefits beyond participation and performance points interactive questions bring to the classroom.

Keep Students Responsible

Ensure students understand the degree to which they are responsible for being prepared, bringing their smart devices and using them appropriately in the classroom. A common complaint among instructors is that students become distracted by their smart devices: lay the ground rules from the beginning and explain that smart devices can only be used when an interactive question is asked. Devices should be stored away for the rest of the classroom time if not used for responding to interactive questions.

Be Patient

Allow yourself and students time to experiment with technology. You may want to try some non-graded practice questions during the first weeks of the semester.

Point Value Matters

Plan your grading philosophy carefully. Avoid using interactive questions for high-stake assessment only, and instead focus on the potential of formative assessment. Successful classroom implementations rarely assign a greater value than 5-8% to interactive questions out of the total grade. You may also decide in favor of dropping several question points for human factors or technical issues.

Strike a Balance

Avoid too few or too many interactive questions per class session. Overusing such questions impairs the learning momentum. Typically, four to six questions is an appropriate number per class session. Limit the number of possible answers for each multiple-choice question. Five or fewer answers makes the question easier to present and explain.

Use Peer Learning

Ask some questions twice. In the first round, ask for individual submissions of the responses and do not display a correct response. In the second round, before asking the question again, allow students to discuss the same question in pairs. Display the feedback the second time around and use the moment to explore why your students have shifted their opinions.

Discuss Student Responses

After showing the distribution of student responses, consider discussing results with the class as a whole, or allow students to discuss with in pairs. Let your meaningful interactive questions stimulate a thoughtful discussion and higher-order student thinking.