Clickers

Student Response System (Clickers) for Learning and Teaching

Classroom

Engaged clicker-using classroom

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If you’d like to implement clicker technology in your classroom, then follow these steps to get started.

Use Clickers to Ask Meaningful Questions

Clickers are devices in a remote audience response system (ARS) that transmit and record student feedback to interactive questions. The term “clicker” can refer to a proprietary remote-control like devices, such as the ResponseCards used with TurningPoint, or smart devices that are capable of transmitting feedback, such as smart phones and tablets running the ResponseWare apps for TurningPoint.

Clickers can help overcome the inherit drawbacks of lectures by allowing each student to engage in active learning. Clickers also afford students anonymity, which helps them overcome social anxieties and to give honest answers. (Caldwell 2007, p. 11-12)

Instantaneous feedback from students makes for a dynamic and effective learning time in the classroom. Recent studies show that the immediate feedback about the correct and incorrect answers can increase students’ retention of the correct answer, even if they answered incorrectly. (Lants & Stawiski 2014, p. 284)

By their nature, clickers allow every student to answer every question. This allows the instructor to accurately track trends across the whole course, rather than trends of a small sample. Additionally, it means that every student is generating their own answer rather than possibly waiting for another student or the instructor to verbalize an answer.

One way to incorporate student responses into traditional credit-based instruction is to structure the class time into three segments, before, during and after instruction:

Before

At the beginning of the class time student feedback is used for setting up the stage for new learning.

Ask clicker questions that:

  • Assess student prior knowledge
  • Surface misconceptions
  • Encourage student predictions
  • Motivate learning

Why ask? To understand student preconceptions, set the stage for new learning, and evoke and maintain interest to the subject matter.

During

Feedback during learning allows to gauge what students understand and what they don’t.

Ask clicker questions that:

  • Check understanding and retention
  • Create practice opportunities
  • Facilitate group dynamics, collaboration and competition
  • Explain real world applications

Why ask? To make the most of your class time instruction, particularly in large enrollment courses, determine if adjustments for instruction are needed, and to increase attention by using active learning methods.

After

At the end of instruction feedback is useful for summing up, making connections and evaluating one’s own teaching.

Ask clicker questions that:

  • Review
  • Explain connections between concepts
  • Demonstrate satisfactory performance
  • Assess the quality of learning activities and your instruction

Why ask? To get glimpses into student understanding, show how new learning fits with “the big picture”, explain how students are expected to demonstrate learning and reflect on one’s own instruction.

Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to Enhance Questions

Clickers can facilitate asking meaningful and impactful questions, which can range from very simple questions that help learners retain content to very complex that encourage sophisticated cognitive processes. The following table uses principles from the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy to illustrate the types of questions to ask.

Table 2. The cognitive processes and clicker question examples
Remember Understand Apply Analyze
Questions imply factual recall and review to gauge learner comprehension. Questions probe into learner understanding and content interpretation. Questions ask to put learned ideas and concepts to work. Questions target relationships concepts and ideas.
Recognize, Identify, Recall, Retrieve Compare, Match, Infer, Generalize Identify, Select, Predict, Choose Appraise, Calculate, Compare, Infer
Example: Select the most accurate description pointing out the difference between Fitness Trainers and Certified Athletic Trainers (ATC). Example: Three wooden blocks of different thickness but of the same composition and density are floating in a tank of water. Assume that the blocks will float only vertically.

Which diagram best illustrates how the blocks will float with respect to the water level?

Example: You are a triage nurse in a pediatric urgent care clinic and the following patients are waiting.

Which one patient out of the five described would you triage first?

Example: Out of five listed steps, select the least essential step for performing a karyotype.

(More on the CELT website about the cognitive processes)

Bloom’s Taxonomy also covers two additional dimensions of the cognitive process: evaluate and create. However, clicker questions aren’t typically used to engage these processes. The multiple choice nature of clicker questions doesn’t lend itself to the depth of questions and answers necessary for evaluating and creating.

Clicker Pedagogy

The effectiveness of clickers is largely dependent on the quality of instruction, interaction, and classroom management. It’s possible to break the clicker pedagogy down into three sections: Students, Policies, and Instruction.

Students

Set Student Expectations: Students should be aware of how often to expect clicker questions and in what ways the questions will affect their grade. Communicate how frequently students’ clicker points will be transmitted to Blackboard Learn, and where they can find those points within the course page.

Explain Clickers to Students: Teach students how to register their clickers; explain the meaning of the lights on clickers; teach them how to properly join the channel in the classroom. You may want to direct them to the Clicker Guide for Students.

Keep Students Responsible: Students are expected to register their clicker with Blackboard Learn. Make sure they’re aware of the resources available to them if they’re having trouble registering, and the consequences they’ll face if they don’t register properly.

Emphasize the importance of bringing a clicker to each class session.

Be Patient: Allow yourself and students to spend time to experiment with the system. You may want to try some non-graded practice questions during the first few weeks of the semester. This will allow you and your students to learn from some of the mistakes that might occur in the class.

Policies

Discuss Grading: Clickers can be used to give points for performance, attendance or both of these. In TurningPoint, attendance points are added to participation points. You may require students to answer a minimum percentage of questions, called a threshold, in order to earn their attendance points for the session.

If using clickers for extra credit, clearly describe when and how those opportunities will occur.

Point Value Matters: Plan your grading philosophy carefully. Avoid using clickers for high-stake assessment, and instead focus on the potential of formative assessment. We find that clickers tend to be most successful in the classroom when their use is worth no more than 5-8% of the total grade.

Experienced instructors suggest that in addition to awarding points to correct answers, consider assigning minimal point value to incorrect answers to encourage students to participate in in-class activities. You may also drop one or two clicker grades for human factors or technical issues.

Clarify Cheating: Inform students that cheating with clickers is treated the same as any other cheating, in accordance with the University’s Academic Dishonesty Policy and Student Disciplinary Regulations (Code of Conduct).

Instruction

Strike a Balance: Avoid too few or too many clicker questions per session. Overusing clicker questions impairs learning momentum. Typically, three to five questions is an appropriate amount per session.

Limit the number of possible answers for each question. Five or fewer answers makes the question easier to digest.

Use Peer Learning: Ask some questions twice. The first time should be done by the students individually, but without showing them the correct answer. Then, before asking the question again, allow the students to discuss the question with other students.

Discuss Student Responses: After showing the distribution of student responses, consider discussing results with the class, or allow students to discuss among themselves. Sometimes you may find it useful to review some previous content.

Use Clickers as a Learning Tool: Don’t simply use clickers as a tool for graded quizzes. Engage students with clickers questions to stimulate more thoughtful discussion and higher-level thinking.

Accommodations for SAAR Students

Clickers can create accessibility barriers for some students. These accommodation strategies can also be effective in clicker courses:

The presentation of interactive questions might be inaccessible to the visually impaired. Carefully consider the inclusion of multimedia content. Pay attention to the size and color of the font you use for posing interactive questions.

Hardware clicker devices commonly use lights to signal task completion. Indicator lights might be inaccessible to visually impaired individuals. The size and shape of control buttons on a clicker device might prevent individuals with mobility issues from participating.

Ensure that you give sufficient time for your students to respond to interactive questions. Short response intervals will disrupt the learning of individuals with mobility, low vision and learning disabilities.

Resources and Tips

From CELT

Professor Emeritus Corly Brooke was a clicker pioneer at Iowa State. She successfully integrated clickers into her large classroom with very positive results. The video below details her experience with clickers in the classroom.

Corly Brooke on implementing clickers in her classrooms.

In a short audio series, Dr. Holly Bender describes how to use clickers in team-based learning.

External

Turning Technologies offers additional, detailed training for TurningPoint 5. You can either read the documentation or watch the tutorials.

Helpful links: