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Dr. Tharanga Wijetunge Discusses Data Collection in Faculty Colloquium

On Friday, October 5, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Lyon College Dr. Tharanga Wijetunge presented the second faculty colloquium of the semester. In his talk, “Qualitative and Quantitative Research in Mathematics Education,” Wijetunge described various ways to collect data in a classroom.

At the beginning of his talk, Wijetunge demonstrated a teaching tool he uses in his classroom: the device uses SMS text or wifi to submit answers to his questions. He posed a question to the audience and requested that they answer it; as the answers came in, they were displayed on the projector screen at the front of the room, and Wijetunge read them off and addressed them.

This tool, commonly known as a remote “clicker” has in recent years been adapted for compatibility with cell phones and other portable wifi devices. This method allows students in larger classes to connect in a more direct way with the professor. This method also allows a professor to easily collect data in the classroom.

In the pursuit of understanding what kind of feedback he can give to best aid the students’ learning, Wijetunge analyzes exams and carefully notes the most common student mistakes.

Caleb Ray, a sophomore mathematics major with a computer science minor and a secondary education concentration, said that he “enjoyed seeing the process [Wijetunge] uses to determine the outcomes of the test on the effectiveness of feedback.”

When testing these effects in the classroom, Wijetunge says he “cannot ethically design a study knowing that feedback is important and knowing that some students would possibly have a negative effect.”

To further the research without ethically compromising it, Wijetunge must come up with “creative ways of giving different types of feedback” and observe which types yield the most consistent and positive results. For instance, he may give one group a hint, one group a complete answer, and one group he may instruct to redo the problem with guidance.

This semester’s faculty colloquium series continues to consistently draw large crowds of about 25-30 attendees and reaffirm Lyon’s commitment to the liberal arts, demonstrating to its students the importance of its interdisciplinary sharing and strength.

“The Lyon College community is vibrant and close-knit,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of English Dr. Cori Gabbard, “but its size also means that there is either one or few faculty members on campus in any given field. The colloquia therefore provide an opportunity for faculty to expand and deepen the intellectual connections they create on campus through increased familiarity with one another's scholarship.”