Date of Award

December 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jing Lei

Subject Categories



A lack of student questioning and engagement is faced by many universities, where a large lecture is a common practice. Emerging technologies bring about possibilities to fill this gap. This study applied constructivist learning theories and used a digital canvas as a Digital Question Board (DQB) for students to freely pose questions and respond using mobile technology. A mixed-methods study with a quasi-experiment was conducted to investigate the following research questions (RQs): (1) Do students demonstrate different questioning behaviors when provided access to a DQB from those students who are not provided with access to a DQB in large lecture classes? and (2) How does having access to a DQB during large lecture classes influence students’ level of engagement?

The study was conducted in two groups of an introductory research methodology course in a large comprehensive university in eastern China (n = 253). The pre-post quasi-experiment lasted six weeks. The data from surveys, interviews, observation, and online posts (log data) were collected and analyzed. The results revealed that when the instructor discussed student questions after every 20–30 minutes in large lecture classes, students with DQB access had a significantly higher frequency of questioning than those without a DQB. The presence of the DQB enriched the types of questions and responses and encouraged mostly on-task learning questions. Having DQB access also greatly improved students’ behavioral and cognitive engagement and facilitated emotional engagement. With technology, students employed a non-linear, constructivist questioning process and actively contributed to the co-construction of knowledge. The presence of the DQB reduced the social pressure of questioning in large lecture classes.

This research might contribute to the educational practices and theories as it depicted the patterns of student questioning in technology-mediated large lecture classes, proposed how to design constructivist instructional strategies better to encourage all students to freely pose questions and receive feedback without fear of embarrassment and being judged.


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