OPIT

Teaching Electromagnetics with Clickers, H. Kettunen

Case presenter


Title

Keywords

Henrik Kettunen, Doctor
Aalto ELEC, Department of Radio Science and Engineering

Teaching Electromagnetics with Clickers

Peer Instruction, Electromagnetic Field Theory, Clickers

Basic course information

The course is a pilot project that combines two candidate level courses from fields of circuit theory and electromagnetism, namely Circuit Analysis 2 and Dynamic Field Theory, with altogether 10 credit points. It is a small-group course, running currently with 18 students.

Goal

This course is a result of teaching development project EPOP in Aalto ELEC. In short, we also call the course EPOP. The idea is to combine two courses using varying teaching methods and modern technology. The focus is on studying in groups. The aim is to test new teaching methods and thereby make the studying more motivating on these rather demanding basic courses.

Study prosess

I am responsible of the field theory part. I have mostly replaced the lectures by a teaching method called Peer Instruction. The method is introduced by Eric Mazur, who is a professor in Harvard University. First, the students have to study the subject beforehand by themselves. This is aided by giving them self-study questions that are also graded. At the actual teaching session, the teacher is not lecturing, but asking multiple choice questions from the students. The questions are focusing on the conceptual understanding of considered physics (Mazur calls them ConcepTests). The students’ answers are collected by electrical response devices also known as clickers. This has two clear benefits: the teacher immediately gets the accurate distribution of answers and the answering is anonymous. The students don’t see each others’ answers, which also encourages insecure students to participate. After the first round, the students are asked to discuss the question in small groups and try to convince their fellows about the correct answer and its reasoning. After the discussion, the question is answered again. In a successful teaching event, the number of correct answers is increased.

Communication and interaction

The Peer Instruction method is very activating. The students cannot only passively listen to the teacher, but they have to think and respond to the questions themselves. Moreover, communication and discussion between the students is required. It is believed, that a major part of learning takes place in these peer-level discussions.

Learning and feedback

This is the first time I’m trying the method and the course is still running, so I don’t have any definite results on the learning outcomes yet. However, the activating effect is obvious. Also, the students are keen to discuss the questions. I would say their attitude towards the method and the clickers is overall very positive.

Future

The most difficult thing is to develop good questions. I found a lot of good material on the web, but I had to come up with my own questions as well. Some of them proved too easy, some too difficult. In an ideal case, the teacher would have a large database of questions. Anyway, I would love to apply this method again in days to come and see, for example, how it works on large mass lectures.

Links

Course Wiki page: https://wiki.aalto.fi/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=58934472