We’re only a month into the new year, but Packback has already achieved some major milestones in 2019! We’ve moved to a new space, doubled our sales team and added a new round of capital which will be used to continue our mission of fueling lifelong curiosity. Plus, we have a lot of exciting goals for the rest of the year including growing our team, improving our platform and supporting our professors with research.
Packback was joined by Dr. Kathleen West from the University of North Carolina Charlotte to discuss how she uses Packback to improve student critical thinking and writing. She also shares key learnings from her research comparing how different discussion methods impacted student participation and written test exams. This research was presented at NITOP 2019.
Packback CEO Mike Shannon was joined by Dr. Kathleen West of UNC Charlotte and Dr. Kaston Anderson-Carpenter of Michigan State University. These two psychology professors shared how they’re using technology and positive reinforcement to improve students’ critical thinking skills, engagement and written communication.
How online discussions helped students understand the importance of class concepts, build connections and improve their writing on exams.
Throughout 12 years of teaching at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, Dr. Kathleen West noticed a growing trend among her students. Students who don’t understand why they need to learn about a topic often express a lack of interest in the course and become disengaged. And it wasn’t just in her classes. As the lead academic advisor in the psychology department, Dr. West heard this concern from colleagues who also struggled to keep their students engaged.
“I think students have always worked this way, but there is a huge trend toward verbalizing it nowadays, that they don’t want to learn it if they don’t understand why they need it” explains Dr. West. “ That’s a big challenge for some of our heavy content disciplines because, you’ll get there eventually, in your higher up classes, but there is X amount of material that [students have] to learn first or that connection piece just isn’t going to make sense. Where I struggle as a professor and I know others do too, is how can we have that [connection] happen at this lower level so that they hang with us and get to that higher level content where it’s really going to make sense to them?”
As enrollment and class size increase, professors face more challenges in keeping students engaged. According to a study from the University of Sussex, students in large lectures become passive recipients of information because the fast-paced environment doesn’t give them an opportunity to actively engage with course content. Whether classes are in-person or online, professors are challenged with finding ways to empower students to take ownership over their own learning and relate course material to their lives.
After teaching psychology at the University of North Carolina Charlotte for 12 years, Dr. Kathleen West found that students who weren’t able to see how the material related to their other studies were the most disengaged students in the class. These students, who are often preoccupied with electronic devices and don’t utilize time outside of class to study or prepare for the course, can be challenging to reach.
One way Dr. West pulled her students away from their devices and into the classroom was by incorporating peer discussion. This interaction challenged students to explore the course content and formulate their own viewpoints. Dr. West used discussions to tie in relevant course information and help students make connections between their learnings, current events and their lives. Dr. West found that by opening up discussions and giving students an outlet to participate at their own pace, students engaged more in class and showed more of an interest to learn.