A few months back Katie Duncan wrote a blog post on Futures about my active learning workshop and the use of the IF-AT scratch card in the session. In my workshop I explain to attendees that I wasn’t born with the knowledge I have about these cards. I have learned it, and not that long ago.  In this post, I go back to where it all began and how I became a huge fan of the little white card with silver rectangles.

Where it all began

Back in 2014 I attended a workshop run by FEIT’s Anne Gardner. An activity at the workshop required us to work collaboratively with others sitting at our table.  We were given a sheet of paper with some multiple choice questions (MCQs) to answer as a group. Along with the MCQ sheet we were also given this strange-looking white card that had all these little silver rectangles printed on it in a grid pattern. It was an IF-AT card, which is commonly known as a ‘scratch card’ (IF-AT stands for the official name of the cards, which is Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique). I’d heard about the cards, but had never seen or used one before.

I was really impressed with the card and how it helped me to participate in the group activity and get immediate feedback on our responses to the MCQs. As a group we first decided what we thought the correct answer was to a particular question. We then scratched off the little silver rectangle that corresponded with our choice. If we were correct, a little star appeared, meaning that we got the answer correct. If no star was there, this meant that we were incorrect and we needed to continue scratching the appropriate silver rectangle on the card until we saw the star. The presence or absence of the star gave us the immediate feedback, hence the “I” in IF-AT.

My first try

After the workshop I met with Anne to learn more about the cards. I was really interested to try them out myself, but had no idea where to get them from and how to make sure the little stars on the cards aligned with the correct answer. Anne was not only generous by giving me her time, she also gave me some cards to use.  All I now needed was a class to run them in. I approached Janet Ge in DAB, who I worked with on another initiative. Janet liked the idea of the cards and agreed to pilot them with me in her subject Property Cash Flow Analysis. Janet came up with the MCQs and I aligned each question’s correct answer to the pre-populated star configuration on the cards we were going to use. We were all ready for the following week.

The anticipation

The day came and I must admit I was nervous. I was standing in Janet’s class holding this little white card explaining to her students what they had to do. They looked a little sceptical. Here they were sitting in a little tiered lecture theatre in Building 4 and we were asking them to collaborate to answer MCQs and to scratch this funny little card looking for stars. A MCQ quiz sheet was given to each student.  We also got them to form into groups and gave each group an IF-AT card to scratch off. The room was dead silent for a second. I stood there in anticipation, not knowing what would happen next.

I didn’t expect that!

The silence seemed like it went for ages, but it was probably only a few seconds. It was broken by the wonderful sound of students talking to each other. It was not like the sound you hear at the beginning or the end of class. It was much more focused. These students were sharing their opinions with their fellow group members. They were justifying and explaining their answers. Others were offering alternative arguments. Along with this respectful hum of students conversing, another track of sound appeared in the room. It was the cheers that were coming from students who were getting the questions correct on the first scratch. There were also duller sounds of disappointment that were coming from incorrect scratches. This then led to even more robust discussions amongst members. The room was alive with all these different sounds. The scratch card session was a huge success. Students looked very satisfied and so did Janet; so much so that we ran two more IF-AT sessions in following weeks. Each session was a lively as the first.

What the students said

Given this was a pilot we decided to survey students at the end of the final session seeking their feedback on the IF-AT sessions. Our paper-based survey was very simple. Students were invited to give responses to:

  1. “The best aspects of the sessions for me were….”
  2. “To improve the sessions, I would….”
  3. Overall, the sessions were a beneficial to my learning about property cash flow calculations (rated from strongly disagree [1] to strongly agree [5]).

Students’ responses were anonymous and they placed their survey into a slotted box, which was not opened until after the semester had finished. When inspected, we were both very pleased with the feedback given by the students.

For the best aspects, students wrote comments like:

  • Actually learning things
  • To be able to share thoughts on the questions to come up with an answer
  • If someone didn’t understand, another would explain
  • Learn from each other
  • Discussing the problem in a small group. All queries we had we could explain to each other
  • Interacting with others and learning at the same time
  • Talking about the question and the method of how to tackle the question

In terms of improvements, students suggested things like:

  • Give more time
  • Improve the room seating as well as give more time
  • The groups need to be able to face each other. The activity doesn’t work well in a lecture theatre
  • Add more questions and the amount of time allocated for the quizzes
  • A better room more suited to group work

For the overall student rating, the result was a mean of 4.57 (n = 30). In other words, students very much agreed that the scratch card sessions helped them to learn about property cash flow calculations.

Very satisfied and hooked

Overall, the results to our pilot were very positive. Yes, the room was not the best—as noted by the students in their feedback. But the students clearly valued the active and collaborative learning opportunities presented by the scratch cards. Since then, Janet has gone on to use the cards in many of her subjects. I have also gone on to use and promote the cards in my workshops. I have run many scratch card sessions in the last 5 years, and always love the sights and sounds these little white cards bring to a room. I still think they are one of the best ways to get some active and collaborative learning happening in classrooms.

If you want to learn more about the cards, I suggest the official website

UTS academics are welcome to get some cards from me or can contact me to talk further about them. Just send me an email.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash


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