Clickers for Learning and Teaching


Engaged clicker-using classroom

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Instructors, follow these step-by-step instructions to implement clickers in your classroom.

What Are Clickers?

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 device or a mobile device capable of transmitting feedback, such as smart phones and tablets.

Ask Meaningful Questions

Clickers can help overcome the inherit drawbacks of lectures by allowing each student to actively engage. Student responses can be tracked or be anonymous: the latter are used for the purpose of easing social anxiety and encouraging honest answers. (Caldwell 2007, p. 11-12)

Instantaneous feedback from students makes for a dynamic and effective learning time in the classroom.

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


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


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


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

Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to Enhance Questions

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

Additionally, Bloom’s Taxonomy includes the Evaluate and Create dimensions of the cognitive process. However, multiple-choice clicker questions might not be suitable for complex tasks of 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.


Set Student Expectations: Students should be aware of how frequently clicker questions will be asked and in what ways their answers to clicker questions will affect their grade. Communicate how frequently student clicker points will be transmitted to Blackboard, and where they can be located in the Blackboard course environment.

Explain How Clickers Work to Students: Teach students how to register their clickers if you plan to track their responses; explain the meaning of the lights on clickers if your students do not own devices with LCD displays; teach them how to properly join the channel. You may want to direct them to the Clicker Guide for Students.

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

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

Be Patient: Allow yourself and students 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.


Discuss Grading: Clickers can be used to give points for performance, attendance or both of these. Attendance points can be added to participation points. You may require students to answer a minimum percentage of questions, 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 in order to encourage student participation 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 in accordance with the University’s Academic Dishonesty Policy and Student Disciplinary Regulations (Code of Conduct).


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 the correct answer. Then, before asking the question again, allow the students to discuss the question in pairs. Display the feedback the second time around and use the moment to explore why your students have shifted their opinions.

Discuss Student Responses: After showing the distribution of student responses, consider discussing results with the class, or allow students to discuss with peers. 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 clicker 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

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.

Academic Dishonesty and Clickers


Clickers, like any other technology in the classroom, can impede learning if abused. One such scenario involves academic cheating, where a student who decides to skip class gives his/her clicker device to a classmate, so that the latter responds to interactive questions for both himself/herself and the absentee. Cheating with clickers can become a serious issue as proprietary hardware is replaced with web-enabled devices, such as smart phones.

In regards to ResponseWare, be aware that students will have the ability to respond to questions from any location, thus enabling a student in the classroom to provide another student outside of class with the code to access online polled questions.


  • Explain to students how the clickers will effectively engage them in class participation and potentially improve their quality of learning by sparking small or large group discussions and/or challenging them to follow along closely with lectures.
  • Firmly establish a clear anti-cheating policy with your students both verbally and within the class syllabus, explaining how clickers will be expected to be used and how clicker points will apply to your class grade. Throughout the semester, reiterate such anti-cheating policies.
  • Inform your students that academic dishonesty will result in an appropriate academic penalty, including the possibility of academic probation.
  • Have your teaching assistants aid with monitoring student behaviors in the classroom.
  • Consider finding a balance between the weight of clicker points on student grades and an incentive for cheating. Data has shown that the optimal value of clicker points should be around 5 – 8% of the course grade; this allows less room for motivation to cheat, while also providing enough of an incentive to participate.

External Resources

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

Helpful links: