Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Formative feedback and interaction in larger lectures through web-based voting.

To what extent can contingent, formative feedback in lectures, facilitated by web-based ICT, increase students’ self-efficacy and (academic, behavioral, and cognitive) engagement? And how are self-efficacy and engagement influencing students’ performance and course evaluations?

2014 - 2016


  • Bart Huisman MSc - PhD candidate
  • prof.dr. J.H. van Driel (Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne) and prof.dr. P.W. van de Broek - supervisors
  • dr. N. Saab - co-supervisor

Project description

Social relevance

Over the last couple of years, Dutch universities have taken specific measures to improve educational quality and study success. Despite these efforts, however, national drop-out rates and study switching in the bachelor remain undesirably high, and average efficiency in terms of timely graduation remains too low.

In the context of frequently decreasing staff-to-student ratios in Dutch higher education, this study focuses on formative feedback and interaction in larger lectures. The central aim of this research is to provide teachers with practical and effective feedback methods that positively influence student engagement, learning and performance.

Topic and research questions

Lectures are common fold in higher education, but their effectiveness is not without discussion. Some reasons for this are the unidirectional flow of information, the lack of students’ engagement, and the lack of interaction with and between students. One method to stimulate and utilize the bi-directional flow of feedback in lectures is through the use of audience response systems (ARSs), often referred to as (physical) ‘clickers’. In short, these allow a lecturer to gauge students’ understanding and misconceptions of the topics discussed, facilitating contingent feedback. There is increasing support for the claim that such methods can enhance interaction, engagement and performance.

This study aims to assess the effects of a web-based ARS within courses from different disciplines and institutes. The roles of self-efficacy, goal orientation, and engagement in relation to students’ performance and course evaluation are investigated. Further, lecturers’ feedback is coded and analyzed in order to get a more in-depth understanding of feedback quality and quantity within these types of lectures.

Scientific relevance

In this study, teachers from a BSc level and a MSc level course participate in a quasi-experimental design comparing two cohorts (baseline vs. interactive lecture format). A web-based ARS utilizing students’ smartphones, tablets and lectures is used to facilitate teachers’ contingent feedback. Compared to physical ‘clickers’, such instruments increase students’ response options, and could significantly reduce the associated logistical hassle and costs.

Lecturers' feedback quality and quantity is coded to assess the extent to which such ARSs influence their feedback towards students in class.


The research on feedback in interactive lectures is part of one out of two tracks within the Formative Feedback PhD project. The second track concerns the implementation of peer feedback within a higher education context.
From a broader perspective, the PhD research is situated in the Study Success project initiated by Leiden University in 2013. In total, this entails 3 PhD projects, in which Indira Day is focusing on intermediate assessment, and Mayke Vereijken on the research-teaching nexus.

Research proposals and findings will be presented at both national conferences (e.g. ORD) as international conferences (e.g. EARLI, SIG Higher Education). Research findings will ultimately be submitted to peer reviewed journals for publication.

Brain and Education Lab (Prof. Dr. Paul van den Broek)

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