Each week, Professor Jessica Methot meets with approximately 80 Rutgers undergraduate students in Lucy Stone Hall, where she shares the tools and techniques needed to strategically manage employees in her Introduction to Human Resource Management class. While Professor Methot enjoys the engaging teacher-student dialogue and insightful questions that come with leading the popular course, she was once faced with a difficult challenge, one that plagues many instructors within today’s tech-oriented society—how to curtail social loafers.
“When I joined the University last year, there were students in my class who thought that I didn’t see them in a lecture hall. They assumed they never had to participate in a large classroom setting, so there were always the same 3 or 4 people answering questions and others who were glued to their cell phones,” Professor Methot says.
With students’ imbalanced participation and dependence on technology, Professor Methot found it difficult to truly gauge their understanding of the course. Furthermore, she lacked feedback on course materials, which she sought to assist with planning future courses. Having a few vocal classroom participants didn’t suffice for Professor Methot, who prides herself with having her students “walk away from classes having learned at least one new thing.” A change was needed.
The remedy came in the form of polling. It was an abstract idea she heard a few teachers were experimenting with to integrate technology into their lectures and make sessions more dynamic. After much brainstorming and research, Professor Methot decided to go with Poll Everywhere, a company whose services she integrated into her fall 2011 classes. She spent the semester posing 3-to-5 questions per class on a range of HR topics, including interpersonal relationships in the workplace, along with the occasional, light-hearted question on personal preferences and current events.
Students responded well to this method, with the majority texting, submitting their answers online, or Tweeting their responses. Submissions were immediately aggregated and displayed in real-time on a classroom projector, permitting Professor Methot the dual benefit of automatically receiving feedback while monitoring attendance. She has not only found a creative way to lead her discussions, but she has also been able to break down the professor-student barrier that can silence learning environments.
"Being able to use my cell phone as a means of participation in the classroom was a great experience because it took the burden off having to raise my hand and answering a question verbally just to prove that I understood the material. Also, it gives the professor the chance to really interact with all of his/her students indirectly by viewing all the possible responses and then having a discussion based off what the students are actually comprehending," says Courtney Schaefer, a Rutgers second-year student.
Professor Methot has seen a marked improvement in her HR classes. Students in her fall 2011 class are scoring, on average, 3 points higher per exam than all three exams in the spring 2011 semester. “They’re doing much better because they’re more engaged, and this allows them to embrace rather than eliminate their dependence on technology,” Professor Methot says. “Plus it’s fun for me as well.”
The positive sentiment towards classroom polling is shared by students like Maria Garzon, a third-year student, who welcomed the teaching tool. “It's fun and almost like a game show with an educational purpose. In my opinion, more professors should join the game!" she says.
Professor Jessica Methot is teaching Introduction to Human Resource Management in spring 2012. For more information on Methot’s introductory course and research, please visit: http://smlr.rutgers.edu/JessicaMethot