Characteristics of interactive classrooms that first year students find helpful

Kristen Vroom, Jessica Gehrtz, Naneh Apkarian, Tenchita Alzaga Elizondo, Brittney Ellis, Jessica Hagman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Implementing research-based teaching practices has been repeatedly cited as an important factor for student success in university mathematics courses. Many research-based practices increase the amount of student–student and/or student–instructor interaction. However, some instructors are hesitant to implement such practices because they anticipate their students reacting negatively to experiencing an interactive classroom. As part of a larger project studying introductory undergraduate mathematics courses in the United States, we investigated students’ perceptions of the helpfulness of various classroom characteristics, particularly those that require interaction. Results: From analyzing quantitative student data, we found that students reported interactive classroom characteristics (e.g., group work) as less prevalent than other classroom characteristics (e.g., lecture). Moreover, the students tended to regard characteristics that they reported experiencing often as helpful for their learning. From analyzing qualitative data from student focus groups, we found that students considered several indicators when identifying if a characteristic was helpful for their learning. In particular, students suggested that they can identify a characteristic as helpful for their learning when it supported them in solving assigned problems and understanding why the procedures work, earning good grades, building on their knowledge or applying it in different contexts, and teaching others. Conclusions: The key finding from our work is that students are likely to view classroom characteristics that they experience more often as more helpful for their learning and are less likely to view characteristics that they rarely experience as helpful for their learning. Students view the characteristics that they regularly experience as helping them to solve problems and understand why the procedures work, earn good grades, build on their knowledge or apply it in different contexts, and teach others. We discuss important implications for practice, policy, and research as it relates to both student and instructor buy-in for increasing interactions in class.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number38
JournalInternational Journal of STEM Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Instructor buy-in
  • Interactive classrooms
  • Research-based teaching
  • Student buy-in
  • Student interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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