Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Leveraging Quiz-Based Multiple-Prize Web Tournaments for Reinforcing Routine Mathematical Skills

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Leveraging Quiz-Based Multiple-Prize Web Tournaments for Reinforcing Routine Mathematical Skills

Article excerpt


As a result of the Bologna Process, students' mean workload in European Higher Education is 50 hours per week. Approximately half of this workload corresponds to teacher-assisted learning activities and the other half to teacher-unassisted ones. The Bologna Process promotes learning activities to be student-centered (Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Higher Education, 2009) because these activities are usually more engaging for students, who commonly spend more time and effort on them, and facilitate a higher quality learning. On the contrary, nonstudent-centered activities are usually less motivating for students, with a high risk of students not fulfilling the activity or at least not putting enough effort on it.

However, there are some non-student-centered activities that are simply to deploy and that are effective in helping students achieve their learning goals. This is the case of homework drills, which are traditionally used to reinforce routine mathematical skills in higher education. Acquiring routine mathematical skills is very important as they underlie the whole process of learning to think mathematically (Schoenfeld, 1992). First, some sessions are devoted to explaining the targeted theoretical concepts and illustrate them with examples, and, second, some reinforcement sessions take place. During the reinforcement sessions, students solve a set of proposed exercises and the teacher--or the students assisted by the teacher--provides a detailed solution to all or part of the exercises using a blackboard or an electronic slide projector. As the exercises address routine mathematical skills, it is expected that the skills will be reinforced if the students repeat the process by themselves several times. This is usually achieved by an unassisted activity: providing a homework sheet and later publishing the solutions to the exercises.

Because doing homework sheets of this type is usually both time consuming and not very motivating for students, there is a high risk of students' not completing the activity properly. The main consequence is that, afterwards, they are not prepared to successfully handle the rest of the course goals. Even if homework drills are made mandatory for passing the course and students' submissions get assessed, it is highly improbable that students' motivation increases. Contrarily, students' plagiarism and teachers' workload are expected to grow, being the last of the two increments, to the detriment of the teachers' dedication to scaffolding students in more challenging learning activities. In the described scenario, there exists the need of engaging students in learning a particular basic skill.

A well-known pedagogy of engagement in higher education is cooperative learning. As defined by Smith, Sheppard, Johnson, & Johnson (2005), "cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning." Competitive learning is an alternative student engagement pedagogy with respect to individualistic learning. In competitive learning, according to Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne (1985), "when one student achieves his or her goal, all others with whom he or she is competitively linked fail to achieve their goals." Contrarily, individualistic learning is defined in Johnson et al., (1985) as those situations where "the goal achievement of one student is unrelated to the goal achievement of others".

Smith et al. (2005) summarize the main results of the meta-analysis made on research conducted between 1924 and 1997 on cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning for higher education. Analyzed works provide clear evidence on the superiority of cooperative learning. Some researchers also highlight the negative effects on achievement motivation that competitive learning approaches may have in pre-higher education students (Johnson et al., 1985; Lam, Yim, Law, & Cheung 2004). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.