Using an audience response system to improve learning success in practical skills training courses in dental studies - a randomised, controlled cross-over study

Eur J Dent Educ. 2014 Aug;18(3):147-53. doi: 10.1111/eje.12071. Epub 2013 Dec 7.


Introduction: The aim of this study was to examine whether the use of an audience response system (ARS) in a high-quality study design, in a course in pre-clinical dentistry leads to an improvement in cognitive and psycho-motor performance.

Materials and methods: As part of the Phantom Course I, a randomised, controlled study in cross-over design with 63 students was conducted over 4 weeks. The intervention was carried out by means of an ARS (TurningPoint(®) ), while a verbal question-and-answer session was conducted within the control group. Differences in learning success were determined via a formative multiple-choice (MC) test (cognitive) and a summative practical test (psycho-motor).

Results: Both groups achieved significantly better results in the MC tests with the use of the intervention, when compared with the control group (group A 11.6 vs. 9.5 and group B 13.7 vs. 12.1, maximum 16 points). A further analysis of the results showed that the overall effect was induced primarily by a marked improvement in below-average students. The practical tests showed no clear effect. Despite the careful selection and set-up of the conditions for the study in the regular course of the semester, a cohort effect emerged. This was due to varying degrees of performance between the two groups, because no adequate performance parameters were available, which could have been taken into account for the stratified randomisation.

Conclusions: The results indicate that the use of the ARS leads to better results in cognitive performance, especially where independent learning is required and should be encouraged. Weaker students in particular seem to benefit.

Keywords: active learning; audience response system; cross-over design; learning success; randomised controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adult
  • Cognition
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Education, Dental / methods*
  • Educational Measurement*
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Motor Skills