Course Improvement Grant Spotlight: “Empowering Students Through Digital Games”
by Julaine Fowlin
|Pengfei Li, senior lecturer of Asian Studies, recently told us about his Course Improvement Grant on increasing students’ engagement and retention through digital games.
Can you tell us about your project and what inspired you to do it?
I will be using a gaming platform to help students with their vocabulary retention in my advanced Chinese language courses. The idea originated from my observation of my students’ performance and my reflection on the course evaluation comments. Regarding performance, I noticed that some of my students didn’t use a lot of new vocabulary in their essays. They were more comfortable using words from previous lower-level classes. This observation was also reflected in students’ course evaluation comments where they stated that when they were learning a new lesson, they didn’t remember the new words from previous lessons. So, I was thinking, maybe I could find a way to help them by finding a way to increase the frequency that they see the new words. I certainly don’t want to give them more homework. I thought they could play some vocabulary games where they can have some fun and, most importantly, they will have the opportunity to see the new words more often. Eventually, they will be able to retrieve these new words when writing their essays. I did some research online, and fortunately, I found a gaming platform, Quizziz, that I think will help me achieve this goal.
What impact do you anticipate this project will have on students who are in it and perhaps on the Vanderbilt community in general?
I hope the vocabulary games that I create can help students remember the new words better and that they will be able to use them in both their speaking and writing. As for the impact of this project on the Vanderbilt community, I will make these vocabulary games available to all students who are learning Chinese at Vanderbilt. They can play these games while they take this course and after they take this course to review what they have learned.
I also see these games having an impact before students take my class. Prospective students can play these games before taking the course to see what they will learn. I hope to include more Chinese language courses into this project and maybe eventually develop this project into a database that can be used for other purposes, such as a language or placement test or simply as a tool for assessment.
Do you have any thoughts to share with others who would like to apply for one of these internal teaching grants?
I will definitely encourage everyone to go for it because if they get the grant, it will help them make their brilliant ideas come true. If they don’t get the grant, the application itself is a rewarding experience because you spend time reflecting on your teaching, identifying a problem, thinking about how it occurred, and thinking about how you will solve this problem. So, this process of thinking already makes us better teachers. I just think this is a totally worthwhile thing to do.
In one or two sentences, tell us how you would capture your teaching philosophy.
My teaching philosophy is to create a learning community where students learn Chinese as a group. They collaborate to find the best strategies and solve problems together in this learning process.