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Unformatted text preview: ndors sell personal electronic response systems, or “clickers” as they’re usually
known to our students. The various systems are all based
on a similar idea. Each student owns a clicker and uses it
to answer multiple-choice questions asked during class. A
computer records each student’s answer. After all the responses are in, the system displays the answers in a histogram like that given in figure 3. Software grades the responses and allows the instructor to later examine each
student’s answer. A clicker system for a classroom of about
200 seats requires several receivers, a computer, and a projector; the total cost is about $5000.
If used properly, clickers can have a profound impact
on the students’ educational experience. The value of the
clicker is that it provides a way to quickly get an answer
for which the student is accountable, and that answer is
anonymous to the student’s peers. While the clickers provide some measure of what students are thinking, it is the
specifics of the implementation—the change in the classroom dynamic, the questions posed, and how they are followed up—that determines the learning experience. These
specifics need to be guided by an understanding of how
people learn. Instructors must also make sure their students understand how and why the clickers are being used.
If students perceive clickers merely as a way to give more
tests, rather than as a method to improve engagement and
communication, the clickers will be resented.
We have found that the biggest impact of clickers
comes when they are used with a combination of practices
that others have developed. We randomly assign students
to groups the first day of class (typically three or four students in adjacent seats). Each lecture is designed around
http://www.physicstoday.org Figure 4. Students in lecture are apt to suffer from cognitive
a series of about six clicker questions that cover the key
learning goals for that day. Although multiple-choice questions may seem limiting, they can be surprisingly good at
generating the desired student engagement and guiding
student thinking. They work particularly well if the possible answers embody common confusions or difficult
ideas. Useful clicker questions and valuable guidance on
writing effective questions are now available.8,13
It is important to actively encourage students to talk to
each other about the questions. We do this, sometimes after
they have answered individually, by requiring our groups to
come to a consensus answer, enter it with their clickers, and
be prepared to offer reasons for their choice. Those peer discussions are the times when most students are doing the
primary processing of new ideas and problem-solving approaches. Critiquing each other’s ideas to arrive at a consensus answer also enormously improves their ability to
carry on scientific discourse. Finally, the discussion helps
them to learn to evaluate and test their own understanding....
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This note was uploaded on 12/20/2011 for the course PHYS 208 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at University of Delaware.
- Fall '08