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Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

From Boredom to Engagement: Using Pop Quiz Voting in Economics and Finance Education

Studies have shown that engaged students have clear benefits (Pike et al., 2006; Chickering and Gamson, 1987; Errey and Wood, 2011; Trowler and Trowler, 2010). However, educators have faced significant challenges in maintaining student engagement. Some of the reasons given for non-engagement are the learners' social context and assumptions about learning (Hockings, 2009); the importance of trust relationships, discourse and supportive social networks (Bryson, 2014); and lack of motivation (Jørgensen, 2019). Studies have also shown that students can get bored, leading to disengagement with the learning process. To engage our students and improve their learning experiences, educators in higher education are continually looking for new and innovative approaches.

One approach used in higher education to engage learners is gamification. Interventions should aim to transform academic performance and the motivational environment of university students to increase commitment, particularly among those primarily focused on passing rather than learning (López-Martínez et al., 2022). There are various applications that lecturers can use to increase the motivation, dynamic and academic performance among university students, such as: Blogger, Piktochart, Genially, Powtoon, ThingLink, and Kahoot. The application has been found to have a positive impact when compared to traditional learning. In the classroom, it has been shown to improve interaction, promote active participation, create a more favourable classroom atmosphere, and facilitate easier answering of questions. It has also been found to reduce student anxiety related to asking questions, lower stress and tension, encourage participation without fear of judgment, add humour to class, and facilitate involvement of shy students (Calderon et al., 2020; Wang and Tahir, 2020).

Studies have shown how social media can be a tool for teaching. Twitter has advantages over traditional teamwork as a learning tool, as it enables collaborative knowledge building among a group beyond the classroom. However, its informality may lead to drawbacks such as potential distractions and unreliable information (Kassens-Noor, 2012).

I created a new approach to teaching that has transformed the courses for third-year and fourth-year students at the University of St Andrews' School of Economics and Finance. Specifically, I have incorporated the use of Vevox, for which the University has a site licence, to teach STATA in the econometrics lab sessions. Vevox serves as the application and platform for polling and Q&A.

A new teaching approach called "pop quiz voting" has been implemented to enhance student engagement without grading implications. In this approach, students are required to scan a QR code, displayed during the lecture, enabling them to join the session anonymously in less than 30 seconds. Working together, students are presented with a series of questions and must select one correct answer from a set of four choices. At the end of the quiz, students can privately view their individual scores and the student with the highest score is awarded a gold medal symbol on their screen.

Elevating Econometrics Lab Sessions

In the past, I found that students were learning at different paces, with many of them finding the material too difficult and becoming disengaged. I used to spend a significant amount of time addressing individual student questions during the lab sessions, which often caused delays and hindered the pace of the session. To overcome this challenge, I decided to integrate Vevox at the beginning of the session. I allocated the first 15 minutes of the two-hour lab session to using Vevox, where students participated in multiple-choice pop quizzes related to coding. The questions started with easier ones, such as identifying the correct code to obtain a given table result, and gradually progressed to more challenging questions that tested their understanding of concepts learned in previous weeks.

Screenshot of a question in Vevox

Vevox screenshot

This approach has been beneficial, as over 90% of students actively participated. However, some students mentioned limitations such as internet access issues and running out of battery. Valuable feedback on this activity was collected through the Module Evaluation Questionnaire.

“Live questions, pop quizzes, and in lecture activity improved my understanding more and made me more eager to catch up.”

“Engaging with pop quizzes and made me want to learn the content. I thought her approach was very good, it was very logical and clear about what the next steps were.”

There are two main benefits to this teaching method. Firstly, it allows students to have a better understanding and recall previous information, reducing the time I spend on addressing individual queries. Due to the varying coding skills among students, a timed approach is implemented for each question, with a series of "rapid-fire" questions. This method accommodates both fast learners who need to be careful with small mistakes and beginners who need a better understanding of the overall STATA concepts. At the end of the quiz, I display a leaderboard on the screen (without the students' names) and acknowledge their efforts with applause and other positive reinforcement. The goal is to ensure that all students are on the same page and that no one is left behind. Additionally, the use of Vevox ensures anonymity, eliminating any pressure students may feel while participating in the quizzes.

Moreover, this method encourages student engagement and promotes active participation. Once I reveal the correct answers, students often inquire about why certain options were not chosen or what certain results mean. This fosters a discussion between students and me, further enhancing their understanding of the subject matter. This approach has proven effective in econometrics lab sessions.

Embedding Employability in Asset Pricing Lectures

Following this positive experience of using Vevox in the econometrics lab sessions, I have also applied this method to asset pricing lectures, which are also attended by third-year students. These students typically have limited professional experience and are preparing for internships in the summer. Hence, I have designed pop quizzes using Vevox, consisting of 5-6 questions that cover conceptual understanding, small calculations, and real case studies. These quizzes help students reinforce their learning from remembering to understanding and applying concepts within a short 15-minute timeframe. For example, questions start with key concepts to analyse short scenarios.

This teaching innovation has enabled me to receive the Outstanding Innovation in Teaching award at St. Andrews this year, which celebrates creativity in the classroom, including module structure, teaching style, and content delivery. I attribute this success to the invaluable feedback provided by my students from MEQ, which has guided me in developing this effective teaching method. I am also grateful to my colleagues for providing opportunities for me to implement and refine this approach in my teaching practice.


This case study provides findings regarding the use of Pop Quiz Voting in higher education. Instead of using traditional teaching methods, we use technology to capture students' attention and engagement. With the students' feedback, this approach has improved student engagement and understanding.


Bryson, C. (2014). Clarifying the concept of student engagement. In Understanding and developing student engagement (pp. 1-22). Routledge. Worldcat 852219554

Calderón, A., Meroño, L., & MacPhail, A. (2020). A student-centred digital technology approach: The relationship between intrinsic motivation, learning climate and academic achievement of physical education pre-service teachers. European Physical Education Review26 (1), 241-262.

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE bulletin3, 7. ERIC ed282491

Errey, R., & Wood, G. (2011). Lessons from a student engagement pilot study: Benefits for students and academics. Australian Universities' Review, 53 (1), 21-34. ERIC EJ926446

Hockings, C. (2009). Reaching the students that student‐centred learning cannot reach. British Educational Research Journal35 (1), 83-98.

Jørgensen, B. M. (2019). Investigating non-engagement with feedback in higher education as a social practice. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education44 (4), 623-635.

Kassens-Noor, E. (2012). Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets. Active Learning in Higher Education13 (1), 9-21.

López-Martínez, A., Meroño, L., Cánovas-López, M., García-de-Alcaraz, A., & Martínez-Aranda, L. M. (2022). Using Gamified Strategies in Higher Education: Relationship between Intrinsic Motivation and Contextual Variables. Sustainability14 (17), 11014.

Pike, G. R., Smart, J. C., Kuh, G. D., & Hayek, J. C. (2006). Educational expenditures and student engagement: When does money matter?. Research in Higher Education47, 847-872.

Trowler, P., & Trowler, V. (2010). Student engagement evidence summary.

Wang, A. I., & Tahir, R. (2020). The effect of using Kahoot! for learning–A literature review. Computers & Education149, 103818.

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