This report resulted in this story 2019who tried to make sense of some disappointing findings from several high-profile efforts to develop promising early studies.
One concern that seems to crop up in all discussions of nudge is that it might make college too easy for students. Shouldn’t they be able to navigate as they please without SMS reminders? Most observers, I have found, can be confident that helping students apply for financial aid is within the limits: wealthy students don’t have to file, and it’s hard to argue that a The process that begins with finding your parents’ tax returns has a lot to do with someone’s ability to succeed academically.
The idea of bringing these interventions into the classroom, however, is more strained.
So when I saw the preliminary results of an academic nudge experiment at Georgia State University, my interest was piqued. Georgia State is well known for its use of data analytics to support student success, and a chatbot it created to send reminders to students and answer their questions was among the most promising directions. for the boost mentioned in my 2019 article.
The university is currently testing chatbots in a classroom: an online section of a major government required course. The first wave of results, based on 500 students who took the course in the fall, are described in a new working paper led by Katharine Meyer, a postdoctoral student at Brown University. The research team found that chatbots had significant effects on student performance, especially among students from historically underrepresented groups.
Sixty percent of students in the experiment’s control group scored Bs or better in the course. The help of chatbots increased the chances of students getting such grades by eight percentage points. The researchers also looked at the impact on first-generation college students, 45% of whom scored Bs or higher in the control group. Receiving the messages increased the odds of first-generation students getting such grades by 16 percentage points.
And what prompted this increase? First-generation students who received the chatbot’s reminders then took recommended actions — like completing homework — at higher rates.
I was curious to know how the course instructor, political science lecturer Michael C. Evans, viewed the experience. Evans told me that he is always eager to work with the university’s student success efforts. And chatbots aren’t all that different from other forms of in-course support: Evans already sends batches of personalized emails through the learning management system. Yet reminder messages provided another layer of support, and on a different medium. The chatbots also allow students to ask questions, which are answered by a combination of the system’s AI-enabled chatbot technology and a certified teaching assistant. The teaching assistant will answer questions that the AI does not yet recognize and can also monitor and track the AI’s responses to provide additional insights.
Evans made several observations about giving students this kind of support in a course. First, he noted, the early results are from a fall semester, meaning many students in this introductory course were in their first term of college. “We all remember what it was like,” he said. “A lot of your mental space is spent figuring out how to be a student, but also, where are you going to eat? How do you find your class? subject to missing due dates; forgetting the small logistical things.
It stands to reason, he thinks, that reminders would help.
Some professors consider meeting deadlines to be an important skill. If they do, Evans thinks, they should explicitly tell the students and help them develop it.
And Evans disagrees with the interpretation that students’ ability to remember and meet deadlines demonstrates organizational aptitude. Instead, he thinks, “many students who meet deadlines without help aren’t particularly organized either — they just have fewer concerns in their lives” like family and work responsibilities.
It is not a question of whether the students are organized, in other words. It is how much they have arrange. If this is the real difference between meeting and missing deadlines, then sending reminders is a step towards improving fairness.
How do you feel about nudging students in a classroom setting? Have you tried anything along these lines, and if so, how did it work? Share your thoughts with me at [email protected] and they might appear in a future newsletter.
Our final Talking About Teaching virtual event—a mailbag for readers, where we’ll ask our panelists a bunch of your questions—will be on Friday, April 29 at 2 p.m. EST. It’s not too late to join us: register here. The same link will allow you to watch the recordings of our three previous sessions, if you missed them.
Your feedback is always important to us. If you attended the sessions of our series, what did you think? What can we do – through the newsletter and in other formats – to provide support and community around teaching in the future? What do you have in mind at the end of this semester? Write to us at any time: [email protected] Where [email protected]. Your comments are an important part of our work.
Ephemeral faculty development
Many teachers are simply too exhausted and overstretched to muster the energy to attend educational trainings, and we have written on how some faculty developers react.
Victoria Russell, who directs the teaching center at the University of Mary Washington, wrote to share a creative approach she’s trying. “My advisory group and I came up with an idea that started out as a joke but will be rolling out (literally) next school year,” she wrote, “the Center for Teaching Pop Up Cart.”
Russell, also an associate professor of education, bought a mail cart — “think of the genre in mailrooms in old sitcoms that have multiple files,” she wrote. “I decorate it with a pennant, our school mascot (the eagle) and a bell. On the top shelf of the cart, I’ll have portable water and snacks; the bottom shelf of the cart will contain hard copies of the latest articles, a selection of books from our center’s library and a ‘tip jar’ containing ideas for a specific topic or question. »
She plans to hold “pop-up” hours in academic buildings around campus on a set schedule, and also make brief appearances at department and college meetings, when requested.
“I’m at a small liberal arts school, so on-campus travel is manageable,” Russell wrote. “I think a certain ‘pedagogy of care’ is as important to my fellow faculty as it is to our students right now. At the very least, I could have some smiles, and those are also very valuable lately.
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