How to increase participation in a Finance class

How to increase participation in a Finance class


If you’re a finance teacher and want to increase students’ participation in your class, this post is for you.

Dr. Greg Nagel teaches a class of 90 Managerial Finance students at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). While Dr. Nagel is extremely passionate about the subject, he noticed that some students in his class were, well, a bit less excited about it. He noticed that students were just using their phones to text, their eyes were glazed over, some were working on homework for another class, and most were basically thinking of anything but the great ideas and content happening in the classroom.

Sound familiar?

In an effort to increase participation and combat distraction, Dr. Nagel uses Top Hat as a way to engage students so that they realize they actually want to learn the ideas that Dr. Nagel is conveying, and so that students see how to connect these ideas to their own world.

Now Dr. Nagel can hear from all of his students

Typically, when Dr. Nagel asks a question in class, usually only 5 hands go up. He also noticed that the only students interested in participating were the outgoing students — only the students who felt confident with material were the ones speaking out. This blocked Dr. Nagel from having any idea of where the rest of the class was at, what they were understanding, and what they were stuck on.

Top Hat changes all of this for Dr. Nagel. He explains that since implementing Top Hat, where he used to only see 5 hands, he is now able to engage around 70 of his students at once. Since students can ask questions and submit answers through their phones, tablets, and computers, and Dr. Nagel can see these responses in real time, he is now able to interact with his entire class and can easily figure out where they need help and which topics require more time.

Now he knows what each student’s understanding is. Because Dr. Nagel would often only be able to engage a fraction of his class, he often had no idea where his students were at in terms of comprehension and their understanding of the material.

Dr. Nagel is excited that with Top Hat he can understand exactly where his students are struggling, and can intervene before they get too far behind or drop the course.

By simply launching a question after teaching each concept or lesson, he can immediately gauge feedback from everybody on whether he should spend the rest of the class time clarifying concepts, or whether his students understand the fundamental concepts and he can move on.

How he’s using Top Hat

Dr. Nagel uses Top Hat mostly to clarify common misconceptions and launch discussions. In order to get the class talking and engaged, Dr. Nagel will launch a multiple choice question in the middle of class and purposely provide options that are not correct. This allows him to have a discussion with the class about which responses are not correct and why. He noticed that his students are quite alert at this point, and working through the questions and incorrect answers with the class allows a deeper understanding among his students.

Dr. Nagel’s class goes a little something like this:

For example, if his objective is for students to learn for themselves what the goal of a firm is and why, Dr. Nagel will then do a “demonstration” as he calls it, and will then turn the lecture to his students,

“For credit, answer the question on your cell phone, iPhone, Android, tablet, or computer.” Students answer the question, and based on their responses it launches the class into a discussion.

In Dr. Nagel’s words, the benefits he’s found are:

“More students engage and they gain immediate feedback. For decades, research has consistently shown that immediate feedback enhances learning.”

He gets to see how much his students are actually learning. He can immediately address the students who do not understand.

“The technology enables much wider participation than I get with questions that require students to speak. Shy students will engage with Top Hat technology and there is no fear of being humiliated or teased by other students.”

Dr. Nagel also explained how much he loves that as an instructor he gets feedback. “I learn and students learn where they’re off track.” There are times when he thinks he’s connecting with students and he’s not, and Top Hat gives him that insight.

He explains that Top Hat “lets us all know in real time that we have a common understanding and we can increase the frequency with which we check this a lot more than before.”

Dr. Nagel is confident that this has had a positive effect on his students, as “students don’t deviate as far as they used to before” since he’s been using Top Hat to check in.

Specifically for finance courses, Dr. Nagel explains that “most students have trouble with concepts of finance, and those can be hard to get across. Top Hat helps me to help students get those ideas.”

Dr. Nagel is also thankful to save his students money and make their lives a bit more convenient. He says that there was a “student telling me they spent $100 on their clicker, and then it sort of just goes away, but you know cell phones don’t go away. Students like it and they’re gonna have their cell phones.”

Fortunately Top Hat has been easy for Dr. Nagel to implement and he hasn’t had to change his pedagogy. He teaches the same concepts, but with Top Hat he can check in along the way and fill the gaps that would be otherwise moved passed.

Looking for an effective way to increase participation? Let’s talk. See a quick demo where one of our account specialists will walk you through how Top Hat can help you increase participation in your classroom and bring your lecture to life.

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