I was asked this week to reflect on why I use clickers for use on the Faculty of Arts ISIT website. Here are my responses…
- Background information about your course
- I use clickers in four of my courses: Introductory psychology (Psyc 101 and 102; 260-370 students), Research methods (Psyc 217; 90 students but as few as 30 years ago), Statistics (Psyc 218; 90 students).
- How did you use iClickers in your course and what made you decide to do this?
- I use clickers every class period for numerous purposes. I ask multiple choice questions to test whether students understand a previous concept before moving on to something new, to spark discussion (especially when there is no one definitive right answer), to survey attitudes about the topic or course (like where to put the laptop-free zone), and as a timer for groupwork or peer-to-peer discussions so we all know how long they have been working. Plus the instructor clicker advances my slides and is easy to use.
- What has been the result?
- When I’m using clickers most effectively, it means the students and I are in dialogue throughout the lesson. Students are constantly developing greater insight into whether they understand the concepts—and so am I (see also research on the testing effect, for evidence that testing rather than just reviewing contributes to longer lasting learning). It’s also engaging and motivating: Students want to know what the answer is, and will sometimes even cheer for correct responses. Questions give us a point of discussion that regularly takes us all deeper than just a surface understanding, as students may argue for one or another answer and we have to unpack why. Also, I have data showing that talking in class is related to feeling a sense of community. Clickers help me trigger and steer those conversations to build community.
- Other benefits: I have become better at asking multiple choice questions, because I get immediate (and vocal!) feedback if an item is worded unclearly. Every student participates (not just the brave) – and if someone chooses E for a question that gives options A-D only, I get to smile and lightly invite that person (whoever it is) to make the choice to learn today.
- What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and is there anything about your approach you would improve or change?
- When I started using clickers, the biggest challenge I faced was responding in the moment to whatever response pattern comes up. Over the years I’ve developed a toolkit of options to use, depending on the response pattern, but sometimes I’m still surprised by what comes up! For example, if it’s 50/50 between two options, I often invite a “turn to your neighbour, discuss, and revote” which usually clears up the problem. Other times I don’t reveal the answers immediately to the class (though I can see them on the receiver), but instead ask the whole class why someone might choose a particular response over another, and then reveal.
- I’ve toyed with the idea of using a service with text-based responses (e.g., TopHat), rather than the i>clicker with just multiple choice options, but haven’t yet. For now, multiple choice questions meet my needs.
- Do you have any advice for instructors hoping to implement this in their courses?
- Come to a class and see them in action!
- Read the guide and watch the video available at http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/resources/clickers.htm for lots of implementation tips.