In the fall of 2017, I was asked to design and teach an Intro to Kinesiology course within the School of Health Studies. Historically, the course had a failure rate of 43% and a near 50% failure rate on the second attempt at passing the course. Furthermore, black students had the lowest success rate of all ethnicities at 47% (Source: Office of Institutional Research, University of Memphis), a concern that will be addressed in future blog post.
The high failure rate of students in this course had become a major barrier to students earning their teaching license in the Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) program. Many students who could not pass Kinesiology and Exercise Physiology would decide to change their degree to the Community branch of our program as their GPA no longer met the Teacher Education Program (TEP) requirements of a 3.0. After much discussion, the decision was made to create an Intro-level course for students not majoring in Exercise Science, with a particular focus on PETE students, as the depth of knowledge needed for non-Exercise Science majors was much less.
Using Kahoot! as my primary way to deliver content, I attempted to redesign the course so that it moved away from the traditional lecture-based approach to one that required maximum active participation from students each day. Kahoot!, a free interactive gaming tool that students access from their mobile device (smartphone, tablet, or laptop), did that and more! The instantaneous feedback and class data made it easy to keep students motivated and allowed me to reduce boredom by only discussing the concepts students struggled with and not those they had already mastered.
The impact observed from this highly engaging design was not only immediate but also astounding, as the failure rate plummeted from 43% historically to 0%, with no students dropping or withdrawing from the class. Additionally, student feedback about the class was inspiring. Overwhelmingly, students felt that the use of Kahoot!s in class was very beneficial.
Eliminating lecturing for a more active approach not only revolutionized the classroom but also increased student interest. Kahoot! provided immediate feedback about what students already knew and what they didn’t know. This feedback allowed more time for class discussions on concepts students’ needed the most help understanding and less time on concepts they had already mastered, reducing boredom and increasing engagement.
Surprising was the immediate change in the quality of class preparation by students as well as the near perfect attendance. Along with their annotated textbooks, students came to class with handwritten notes that were organized, highlighted, and annotated in an effort to be most prepared for the game. The picture below is a real example from one of my classes.
Another interesting aspect of implementing an active and gamified pedagogical approach was what happened when students missed a question. Suddenly, students made additional notations in their notes, often highlighting or annotating the content they missed on the question. Whenever there were more than a few students who missed a question, the class was stopped to discuss the question. However, I did not always provide the explanation of why an answer choice was or was not correct; rather, students, often quoting their text or notes, provided the justification and regularly provided personal examples, further deepening their own understanding.
Quizzes accounted for 30% of the students’ total average. In this course, students were required to take notes (15% of final average), although they probably would have done that anyway as a way to come as prepared as possible for the in-class games, earning bonus points based upon their performance (10% of their quiz average, or a total of 3 points). Class assignments accounted for 25% of their average (used to place emphasis on coming to class and being actively engaged) while the midterm and final each accounted for 15% of their final average.
The questions used in the Kahoot! games formed the test bank for daily quizzes as well as for the midterm (~ 510 questions) and final (~644 questions), both of which were cumulative. Half of the questions (15) on each daily quiz came from the current day’s lesson (roughly between 60-80 questions per 1 hour 25 minute session) and the other half of the questions (15) came from the growing bank of questions from all the previous quizzes. Questions were randomly pulled by the learning management system from the growing test bank, which required students to continuously study previous notes and practice past Kahoot!s.
It was obvious that actively engaging students would improve the outcomes; however, the magnitude of observed change was not expected. In Fall 2017, 23 students enrolled in the newly designed course. Students earned a combined total of 25,028,054 points playing 12 Kahoot!s, with 15 students earning over 1 million points each. The 12 Kahoot!s were played a reported total of 30 times, with students playing 18 additional games outside of the classroom.
To ensure proper alignment of the course, Kahoot! questions became the quiz questions, which were randomly pulled from the growing number of questions in the test bank each class. Students were allowed three attempts per quiz (12 quizzes) keeping their highest score earned out of the three attempts. There were 509 total attempts across 12 different quizzes for a total of 42.4 attempts per quiz or an average of 1.8 attempts per student. The average recorded grade per quiz was 91.5%.
The average grade on the midterm exam was a 84.86 (B) and the average on the final exam was 78.14 (C+).
A Pearson R (linear correlation) was run to determine the strength of relationships between student’s average quiz grades, the midterm exam grade, and the final exam grade. The results from the Pearson R correlation analysis were interesting. The analysis found there to be a high correlation between the quiz average and the midterm exam grade (R=0.71) while the analysis found a moderate correlation between the midterm exam grade and the final exam grade (R=0.52). However, there was little, if any, correlation between the quiz average and the final exam grade (R=0.34). These results could possibly be explained by the fact that the first half of the course of more Kahoot!s being played (8 quizzes taken before midterm and 4 quizzes after midterm) while the second half of the semester required students to spend more time applying what they had been learning through the use of a small in-class project.
Lessons Learned/Next Steps:
Student engagement was extremely high and students reported a high level of satisfaction with their experience gathered in three course surveys distributed week 2, 8, and 15 of the course.
While I piloted a small 4-week, application-based, project near the end of the course, students would most likely have benefitted from a semester-long project that coincided with the weekly learning, which would likely have strengthened the depth of their knowledge as well.
Students will persist when given the opportunity in a well-designed, aligned course. Additionally, I think allowing students an unlimited number of attempts on each quiz will further strengthen students' didactic knowledge (this is an introductory course for non-majors in the area of kinesiology or exercise science) and build a stronger foundational level of knowledge, which will improve their performance on their upcoming licensure exams.
It is evident that active learning produces far better outcomes, both in student satisfaction and overall course grades (see table above), than that of traditional, passive learning, approaches. This course is nowhere near complete in its design and needs additional resources and activities built out to be considered well-designed. However, it's off to a fantastic start and will only improve with each iteration!