California Researchers Play It By Ear With Audio-Based Classroom Activity Tracker

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A new method, featuring audio wave analysis software, shows promise as an effective and low-cost way to measure the efficacy of innovative teaching strategies. DART (Decibel Analysis for Research in Teaching) focuses on audio recording of classroom activities and was reported on at phys.org.

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The “comprehensive” project, led by Kimberly Tanner at San Francisco State University, involved 83 community colleges. The project produced recordings of 1,486 sessions. DART then classified the recordings according to the type of activity taking place and the level of participation. This was contrasted with notes from trained evaluators taken during the sessions. DART boasted 90% accuracy in determining the general activity taking place.

Then, the classifications were linked with student outcomes. Results so far suggest a combination of participatory activities (where the lecturer’s voice is not dominating the recording) and silent ones, demanding focus from the student, can be important predictors of skill progress and final outcome.

But more than its predictive prowess, DART’s achievement lies in the ability to provide a low-cost method to automatically track and categorize classroom activities, offering a measure of progress. It can provide more accurate data for analyzing quality and efficacy of learning interventions.

DART’s software is available at the San Francisco State page. Plans to develop a mobile application are underway.

The peer-reviewed research, including methods and outcomes reported, is available at the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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