Een interactiever vak

30 mei 2013 door ICTO TEAM
Bernhard Brandl (TNW)

Interactie tussen docenten, studenten en onderwerpen verbeteren met Turningpoint en ResponseWare in de colleges en twee excursies naar astronomische observatoria.

Project description
Based on the feedback we received in 2013, after we offered the course in its current form for the first time, we proposed to improve the interaction between lecturers, students and topics in two ways:

  1. Integration of Turningpoint/Responseware in the lectures in order to improve the involvement of students in discussions and to receive real-time feedback concerning their current level of understanding.
  2. Organising two field trips to astronomical observatories in order to illustrate how astronomers gather data these days.

Figure 1. Student feedback presented in a histogram.

Figure 2. TurningPoint/ResponseWare turned out to be very useful for organisational matters, too.

Both goals turned out to be very successful, both from the lecturer’s and the students’ points of view, as indicated by the course evaluations.  

The lectures were subdivided into three sections (separated by two breaks). At the end of each section about 10-15 minutes were reserved to work out the solution for a given problem. Typically 8 answers were provided.
About half of the students (~40) provided feedback via either notebook, smartphone or iPad. The results were then presented in a histogram (see figure 1), providing insight into the students’ level of understanding. In case (too) many students had chosen a wrong answer, additional explanations would be provided during the lecture. The anonymous submission of solutions via electronic devices offered three advantages:

  • Compared to previous years (exercises on paper), more students were able to work out the correct solution.
  • Anticipating the upcoming “mini-test”, more students tried to pay attention during the lecture.
  • Students who did not provide a correct solution, immediately realised their lack of understanding and the need practice more.

Technically, the system worked fine, except for some known “bugs” in TurningPoint and the fact that ResponseWare initiated a dedicated session, which required uninterrupted internet access for several hours.
In addition, TurningPoint/ResponseWare turned out to be very useful for organisational matters, as indicated in figure 2.

Figure 3. Oude Sterrewacht, Leiden.

Field Trips to Astronomical Observatories
We organised two field trips for students enrolled in the course:

  • During the the first trip to Oude Sterrewacht in Leiden (figure 3), about 20 students joined guided tours through the facility and carried out several observations with telescopes. This all took place on two nights in January.
  • The second trip, on April 22nd, 25 students went to the main Dutch radio astronomy facilities. The first stop was ASTRON in Dwingeloo. The program started with a brief introduction to the various observing facilities (figure 4), which was followed by a short walk to the historic, recently refurbished Dwingeloo radio telescope, measuring an impressive 25 m in length (figure 5). After the lunch, the tour went on to the Westerbork Radio Synthesis Telescope (WRST) comprising 14 radio antennas with a diameter of 25 m, placed on a 2.7 km strip (figure 6). An expert from the observatory informed the students about the next generation of radio receivers (figure 7).

Figure 4 and 5.  ASTRON in Dwingeloo.

Figure 6 and 7. Westerbork Radio Synthesis Telescope (WRST).

In summary, we consider our Grassroots initiative to be very successful, with many new ideas for subsequent lectures, as well as “added value” for the students who participated in the field trips.

N.B. Formally, the field trips are not subject to the Grassroots project. However, part of the Grassroots grant was used to pay for the trips, which were clearly an added value. 

More information

Teacher: A. Endo (AS); email:
Teacher: B.R. Brandl (AS); email:
Teacher: R.M.J. Janssen (AS); email:
Year: 2013-2014

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