The use of clickers is much more than as an attendance device. Students frantically enter the classroom to find a clicker slide on the screen waiting for them to respond to the question. The slide may have a relevant question pertaining to material or concepts covered in prior lectures, but after answering the question the student’s results are only used to give them credit for being in class. There is nothing wrong with this, but I say clickers are an awesome tool with which to engage students during your class period. So you want to engage students in your class, but are not sure how to go about it. Here I will discuss some of the techniques our faculty use with clickers to engage students during class.
The first technique is to make sure students are grasping the concepts covered either through readings, videos or prior class periods. This could be in the form of well worded challenging multiple-choice or short answer questions for example. These are designed to make the student think and analyze the material about the important learning outcomes before answering the question. Instructors also use these questions to reveal misconceptions before moving on. This feedback is both important for the students and the instructor. For instructors, the results may mean the material wasn’t covered well and a new approach is needed. For students, their immediate feedback may mean they need to study the concept more before tackling more challenging material.
This technique is used to get students discussing the concepts and learning outcomes prior to answering the clicker question. This technique is great for classes that are based on discussion or reflection. The clicker device is a way to engage students in their learning by posing questions the students respond using the device. The class results are shown, but without showing the correct answer if there is one. The instructor then lets the students discuss amongst themselves in small groups for a short period and the students resubmit an answer to the question. During this process the students are learning from each other to better understand the material presented. If you want more information about Peer Instruction see: http://mazur.harvard.edu/research/detailspage.php?rowid=8.
Using your course learning outcomes to create challenging conceptual questions to review prior to an exam is another technique in using clickers. Instructors have constructed questions that provide the student an idea of what concepts are covered on the exam. Depending on how well the student performs gives them an indication of what they need to go back and review prior to the actual exam. This is not teaching to the test, but provides a focus for the student’s shortcomings in understanding the concepts and material. If there is a large discrepancy in the results, then using the Peer Instruction technique, list above, can assist the learning process for students.
Missouri University of Science and Technology has on average about 30 to 35 faculty using the student response device or software to engage their students during the class period. For more information on clickers use this link: http://certi.mst.edu/technology/clickers/#uses.