Large-Lecture Participation via (Free) Pytania Student Response System

  • Mark Snyder George Mason University
Keywords: student engagement, active learning


In large lecture courses, encouraging participation is
challenging. Pytania is a Student Response System (under development
and testing at GMU) that collects students' responses and shows graphs
of student responses. It encourages practice and exploration; it
guides class discussions by uncovering common misconceptions. We can
track students' course-long participation history. Students can also
use completed questions as review materials for test preparation.

The intended use is to offer a batch of 3-5 questions on a new topic,
covering both common and special cases. Students can compare results,
discuss, run the example code (in our programming course), and use any
means of exploration to choose an answer. They submit answers on any
web-enabled device. After time is up, we lock answers, and show the
results to discuss, as well as a bar-graph of students' responses. The
tool currently offers the following styles of questions: (a)
open-response (text), (b) numeric (integer or float), (c) true/false,
(d) multiple choice, and (e) multiple answer.

Often, the best questions are open-ended and have a single correct
answer, such as "what is printed when we run this code?" Another
useful style of question is the multiple-answer prompt. We show a
"sentiment graph" that colors each option as correct(green) or
incorrect(red), with a bar proportional to number of student
responses. This quickly identifies correct options that few students
chose, or incorrect options that many students chose. It also serves
as a great repository for study questions when questions are left in

Author Biography

Mark Snyder, George Mason University
Computer Science