Teaching in the “Clicker” Classroom
Research reflects that teachers often overestimate how much students learn, but classroom response systems (or “clickers”) allow a teacher to access the thinking of all students in attendance immediately and without embarrassment to the students. Clicker technology is transforming classrooms and becoming increasingly popular as a pedagogical tool. But there are many issues to consider before deciding on the best use of this technology for your classroom.
Why use a Classroom Response System?
- Retain student attention/involvement longer
- Involve more than the typical 10-20%
- Increase critical thinking
- Identify misconceptions/misunderstandings
- Improve attendance typically
- Create a “small class feel” in large classes
- Use technology pedagogy that students typically relate to
- Allow students to experience immediate feedback on their thinking
- Create a “safe” way for all students to participate
- Add some drama as students wait for immediate response charts
What are your class goals, and how can clickers help achieve them?
- Be cognizant of why you are using this pedagogy and how it impacts learning
- Explain to students how clicker use helps them be engaged in learning
- Ask questions that support your class goals
- Spend time on priority topics, then include thorough discussion also
- Use a variety of types of questions: factual, conceptual, thought-provoking
- Use questions that have some degree of difficulty and require thought
- Don’t necessarily supply all answers by the end of class
- Develop flexible lesson plans for immediate response to class needs
- Have a technology back-up plan
Should clicker responses be graded? How are grades earned?
- Award points for clicker use as a motivator to participate
- Consider including partial credit for incorrect responses
- Create grading flexibility for technology failure (non-working clickers)
What types of problems might you expect, and what can you do about them?
- Students don’t necessarily expect to “work” in class: explain how clickers support learning goals, early and often
- Poorly implemented clicker system discourages students: practice with the technology before classes begin, be familiar with accessing technical support quickly, put careful thought into “why THAT question?”
- Clickers provide new ways to cheat: register all students’ clicker numbers, set up system so it reflects what clickers have been used for each question, monitor closely as clickers used
How do I prepare to use clickers in my classroom?
- Make sure the classroom is set up appropriately
- Test the clickers in that classroom, software and registration system
- Plan how you will grade responses and capture responses for grades
- Prepare clicker questions ahead of time with reasonable class time involved
- Discuss the how and why of clickers the first day of class with students
- Have a back-up plan in case of technology break-down
What “clicker best practices” are proving to be most helpful for student learning?
(with thanks to “Clickers in the Classroom” by Douglas Duncan for info in this section)
- Enhance interactive teaching (rather than merely attendance or graded “pop” quizzes)
- Keep the points for in-class clicker quizzes at a low percentage of grade
- Rather than requiring a calculation, focus on critical thinking, conceptual understanding, and active learning uses
- Keep the level of difficulty at an intermediate level—not trivial but not so difficult students tend to pick answers randomly
- Use the Clicker system regularly, at least once a class period or once a week
- Make time for peer discussion of responses—learning is not effective without it
- Test students on their conceptual understanding not just problem-solving so they see the benefit to the classroom discussion time