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Classroom Participation via Clickers

Clickers, also known as Audience Response Systems, are polling tools that allow for an instructor to collect and present responses to multiple choice style questions in a live classroom settings. Using clickers include having students use the a response device (“clicker”) in combination with an receiver device that allow an instructor to record and present the responses to the class.

The Value of Clickers

Using clickers is a popular technique for engaging your students and encouraging active participation in your class. Many instructors struggle with measuring students’ comprehension during a class session. Clickers have the potential to allow instructors to go beyond visual signal of student confusion or frustration, and gauge student understanding prior to more formalize assessments tools like quizzes or assignments. By interspersing clicker question throughout a class this tool can serve as a "barometer" for student understanding. By reacting to student responses an instructor can engage in "just-in-time" teaching - by providing additional clarification or alternate examples to resolve areas of confusion for students. Fans of clickers also praise their usefulness for supporting “lively” instruction and use in conjunction with active learning principles. There are many techniques for how to use clickers which can include techniques individual assessment or peer instruction.

Beyond simply mastering the tools for collecting responses from student, successful adoption of clicker requires careful planning with regard to the pedagogy of using clickers.

Basic Mechanics

Clickers offer instructors a way to poll a student audience on a variety of questions. Commonly used in conjunction with PowerPoint slides, an instructor can pose multiple choice style questions, and students use a remote control device to respond. Once polling is closed, the instructor can choose to display a graph of results to the class. The MGH Institute uses the TurningPoint brand clicker system which includes the TurningPoint Anywhere software. TurningPoint Anywhere can be used in conjunction with any combination of presenter tools (PowerPoint, Keynote, SMART Notebook etc.)

For more information or to get started on using clickers, please open a ticket request with the MGH Institute IT Help Desk.

Question Design

The heart of using clickers is the creation of good clicker questions for use in your class.

The most basic questions simply measure recall ie “What is one of the common adverse effects of Lasix?.” Whether used to measure recall of material just presented or from reading done in preparation for class, recall based questions are the simplest type of question to pose. Because these types of question lack any application of knowledge, they are limited as an assessment tool and should be used sparingly if at all.

When possible questions should be designed to require students to move beyond recall to application. Moving beyond recall based questions increases the potential for clickers both as a means for engagement tool as well as for fostering deeper learning. Application based questions might require problem solving on critical thinking skills relevant to the content area. For example the question: “A client with heart failure receives treatment of intravenous furosemide (Lasix). Which nursing assessment data would indicate a need for the nurse to notify the physician?” requires students to recall potential adverse effects of Lasix as well as the indicator thereof that might require action.

Proponents of clickers often speak about the value of clicker questions for forcing students to commit to an answer. By forcing students to commit to an answer in an anonymous context we can potentially gather a more complete understanding of student thinking than we get from a simple “show of hands.” Many strategies for using clickers incorporate it as a tool for transitioning into discussions. Popular approaches to question design might also incorporate question that identify and clarify misconceptions.

Other approaches to using clickers:

Peer Instruction

Students are asked to consult with a peer who chose a different response and then given a 2nd chance to respond to the question after consultation.

Generative Choices

Rather than the instructor writing the option for the multiple choices, the instructor poses a question and ask students to generate possible answers that can then be voted upon.

For more information about Clickers, please submit a ticket request with the MGH Institute IT Help Desk.

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