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Interactive learning with clickers

November 19, 2009

Student response systems, better known as "clickers," can be used to create an interactive classroom environment, gauge student understanding of course materials, and track student participation or attendance.  In this session, faculty discussed how they have used clickers in a variety of disciplines and class sizes:

  • Phil Zeigler and Brian Davis (Psychology) discussed the promise and challenges of using clickers in a very large (>850 students) introductory course taught by four professors.  Clickers are used to track student attendance, give pop quizzes, and assess student understanding. Faculty have used clickers to demonstrate cognitive psychology experiments, to ask students to make predictions, and to collect survey/demographic information from students.  Clickers are also used to administer multiple choice exams, using the self-paced, student managed mode.
  • Danielle Becker demonstrated how she used clickers to teach a class session on plagiarism, a subject which is difficult to make interesting to students.  In her class of 20, students used clickers anonymously to answer questions about their own experiences with/perspectives on plagiarism and to register whether they thought samples of writing constituted plagiarism. The ensuing discussion was lively and students seemed engaged in the subject matter.  Based on student response, Professor Becker is planning to expand her use of clickers into other parts of the course.
  • Neepa Maitra discussed how she uses peer instruction, a teaching method developed by Eric Mazur, in her introductory physics class for non-majors.  Students in this class of 80 - 90 are asked to respond to conceptual physics questions.  After seeing the initial distribution of responses, students break into small groups and are asked to defend their answer to their peers.  Students are then posed the same question a second time.  Professor Maitra found that students often, but not always, converge on the correct response.  Even when they do not converge on the correct response, students are eager to know the correct answer to the problem.


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