Using Classroom Response Systems to Engage your Students

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Using iClickers to engage and interact with students in undergraduate chemistry courses


  • 1.Dr Shadi Dalili, Chemistry Lecturer Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences UTSC Teaching Showcase April 8 th , 2011

2. Outline

  • Demonstration
  • Introduction to Clickers
    • Various Uses/Types of Questions
    • Advantages and Disadvantages
    • Student Perceptions
  • Questions and Concerns

3. Your Experience with Clickers

  • What kind of experience do you personally have teaching with clickers?
  • Ive never used clickers in my teaching
  • Ive just used clickers for a few class sessions
  • Ive used clickers regularly for one course
  • Ive used clickers regularly for more than one course

4. Your Experience with Clickers

  • How many instructors are using clickers in your department/faculty?
  • None
  • Just a few early adopters
  • Use among instructors is growing rapidly
  • Many instructors are regularly using clickers

5. Your Background

  • Which best describes your role on campus?
  • Lecturer/Senior Lecturer or other Faculty
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Instructional Technology Advisor/CTL Staff
  • Information Technology Staff
  • Academic Advising

6. Your Background

  • How many of you primarily teach:
  • Physical Sciences or Life Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Social Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Primarily, my role is not teaching

7. Questions I hope to answer.

  • Why use clickers?
  • What you need to use clickers?
  • How are educators using them?
  • Teacher/Student opinions and results?

8. Why use Clickers?

  • 80% of college teaching is in the form of a lecture
  • Significant interaction is lacking in most lecture environments, where only a handful of students typically dominate any interaction
  • In a fifty-minute lecture period, questions and other interaction comprise less than five minutes of class time
  • Only 19% of students ask a teacher for advice after class
  • Only one-third of all students will leave a lecture with most of the key lecture points recorded

9. Traditional Classroom Technology

  • Overhead projectors
  • Document cameras
  • Slides and filmstrips
  • DVD, Radio, TV
  • Tablet PCs
  • All listed technologies are for presenter to interact with themselves and their presentation: Studentsjust observe

10. Interactive Classroom Technology

  • Technology that engages the student and demands a response Student Response Systems.
  • The interesting thing is that this is not a new technology, however;
    • Todays hardware is cheaper and performs better
    • Todays software is far more user friendly and feature rich

11. Opinion Question

  • What is the average attention span of todays students?
  • They have none!
  • 7 minutes
  • 15 minutes
  • 33 minutes
  • 50 minutes


  • Teaching by telling
  • is surprisingly ineffective
  • Studentsminds must beactiveto learn.
  • What can you do?!
  • Peer discussion ofconceptualquestions forces students to talk and reason during class.

Why use Clickers? 13. What do you need to use Clickers? 14. How do instructors use Clickers?

  • Usage depends ongoals/objectivesfor class-be very clear early on
  • Questions should vary among all levels of Blooms taxonomy


  • Ask the Audience
  • Pop Quiz
  • Group response
  • Attendance
  • Opinion poling
  • Concept review
  • Topics for discussion
  • Priority ranking

Typical Applications of a SRSDuring Lecture SRSs are flexible - allowing Instructors to match Student Response System activities to their presentation content, learning objectives, and personal teaching style.

  • Voting
  • Testing
  • Knowledge retention
  • Discussion starters
  • Attitude/opinion polling
  • Consensus-building
  • Anonymous feedback/evaluations

16. Factual Questions The C4-C5 carbon-carbon bond in the following molecule results from the overlap of which orbitals ( in the order C4-C5) ? A)spsp 2 B) spsp 3 C) sp 2 sp 2 D) sp 2 sp 3 E) sp 3 sp 2 17. Comprehension/Application Questions Which of the following isnota constitutional isomer of the others? A. B. C. D. E . 18. Conceptual Questions Consider a tiny acorn, and a giant oak tree. A log from thattree weighs 10,000xas much as the acorn. Where doesMOSTofthemasscome from?

  • Sunlight
  • Water
  • Dirt
  • Minerals in the soil
  • The air

Then peer discuss 19.

  • 6CO 2+ 12H 2 O -> C 6 H 12 O 6+6O 2+ 6H 2 O
  • Carbon dioxidewaterglucose (sugar)oxygenwater

Photosynthesis The correct answer is The Air.Carbon dioxide from the air! 20. Procedural Questions Which of the following isnota proper step in the mechanism of the given reaction? A. B. C. D. E . 21. Critical Thinking Questions

  • What is Civilization?

22. Polling/Opinion Questions

  • Which of the following time slots do you prefer for the final exam review session? (final exam is April 27 th )
  • Tues April 19 th 12-2pm
  • Mon April 18 th 12-2pm
  • Thurs April 21 st 12-2pm
  • Tues April 26 th 12-2pm
  • Any of the above works fine for me

Because of the immediate feedback, students saw that decisions were made with their input. 23. One Technique: a 3-question sequence

  • Question 1:Easy, develops confidence
  • Question 2:Hard: impasse stimulates discussion
  • Question 3:Hard; provides assessment
  • All questions are onthe same concept , but havedifferent surface features!

0 24. Which of the following reasons for using clickers do you think are most compelling?

  • To check for student understanding during class
  • To help students check their own understanding
  • Increase student attention and attendance
  • Encourage students to actively engage with course content
  • Encourage discussion and collaboration among students

25. Advantages of Clickers?

  • Immediate, accuratefeedbackto both you and your students.
  • Students moreactiveandaccountablefor their own learning
  • Clicker responses areanonymousto students neighbors and produce more honest responses.
  • Anamazing increase in student enthusiasm(if you use clickers well): improve attitudes
  • Gaugeclass understanding before teaching a concept
  • Increasestudents learningandretentionof what you teach
  • Facilitatediscussion/debateandpeer teaching
  • Increase classattendance
  • Identify trouble spots in course content: adapt lecture content based on needs

26. Disadvantages of Clickers?

  • Technology mayfail
  • Extracostfor students
  • Extraequipment(hardware/software) needed; extra time and energy needed to learn how to use it
  • Stopping class to vote takestimeaway from lecturing-less material can be covered
  • Need to prepareeffective clicker questions ; extra lecture preparation needed to adjust existing questions to fit clicker format
  • Administrative burdenassociated with technology: If points allocated, have to watch out for cheating (multiple clickers, friends clickers, etc), adjust for lost/broken/forgotten clickers, correlate student registrations with grades, etc

27. What we are finding in the field is that SRSs..

  • Receive consistently high ratings from students
  • Keep students engaged
  • Increase participation and discussion
  • Engage Students- classes are more interesting
  • Instructor has more flexibility in terms of classroom delivery options

28. University of Illinois Study found:

  • 87% of students more likely to attend class
  • 72% more students likely to participate in class

Source:Two Semester Research project managed reed | group, LLC in partnership with Thomson Learning, Turning Technologies and University of Illinois 29. My own approach to Clicker Questions:

  • Questions were designed to:
    • Review material from prior classes
    • Reiterate foundational concepts needed for current application in class
    • Provide familiarity with questions they would likely see on the midterm and final exam:Jeopardy reviews
    • Engage the class & add some excitement to material
    • Provide natural breaks in material delivery

Anecdotally, clickers brought the students closer to me as an educator, -gave me an extra tool to lighten the mood and to mix things up a bit 30. Student Perceptions and Survey Results (2 semesters)

  • Using clickers has improved my class attendance:70% (Strongly Agree or Agree)
  • Using clicker questions during lectures helps me clarify whether I understand course/lecture concepts :94% (Strongly Agree or Agree)
  • Participation with clickers has increased my interaction with the instructor and other students:82% (Strongly Agree or Agree)
  • Clickers have increased my participation in class and have increased my engagement with the course material:72% (Strongly Agree or Agree)
  • I enjoy using clickers in class and we should continue using it in CHMB41 and CHMB42:88% (Strongly Agree or Agree)

31. Student Comments in Survey

  • I agree with the use of clickers in the class, they do help us (the students) interact with the profesor and I'm sure they allow the profesor to know whether or not the material is being understood by the students. However, I think they should be kept optional, as it has been so far in this course
  • Helps me understand, gives me a opportunity to try by myself and also makes me study when everybody in the class gets it but me.
  • The clicker questions are wonderful, although I don't think that a clicker should be mandatory for poor people like myself. I find that the questions go over important concepts and teach you how to go about solving a question. They are extremely useful!
  • I like the difficulty of the clicker questions. The textbook does not have questions as difficult as the clicker questions done in lecture.
  • The clicker questions asked are very appropriate for the topics being covered and are a great way to check for understanding of concepts.


  • It's interactive and anonymous, so I don't feel pressured into giving the right answer. No pressure means more interest.
  • Having the clicker questions does increase my interest on the course, I usually look foward to them -they are a "fun" way to make sure I'm understanding the content -which I greatly appreciate. There is nothing worst than thinking you understand the concept to then go home and not be able to answer any of the hw questions! Also, more that once I have been "saved" by the clicker questions when the student's answers have been scattered around and the profesor takes the time to throughly explain the question.
  • When forced to think about clicker questions in class, you learn to approach different questions in different ways which makes the course more interesting.
  • Also, knowing which clicker questions are "hard" for me gives me an idea of which sections I have to spend more time studying for. With this said- I do strongly believe clicker questions have and will continue to improve my grade in this class. I hope we use then in CHM B42.

Student Comments in Survey 33. Which of the following questions or concerns about using clickers is most pressing for you?

  • Do instructors find it difficult to cover as much content when using clickers?
  • Should students be asked to purchase clickers themselves or should institutions/departments/instructors provide them?
  • How do you write effective clicker questions?
  • Should clicker questions be graded? If so, how?
  • How frequently does the technology fail during class?

34. Best Practices for Implementing Clickers in the Classroom

  • Keep slides short to optimize legibility.
  • Keep the number of answer options to five.
  • Do not make the questions overly complex (but avoid always factual questions).
  • Keep voting straightforwardsystems allow complex branching, but keep it simple.
  • Allow sufficient time for students to answer questions. Some general guidelines:
    • Classes of fewer than 30 students: 1520 seconds per question
    • Classes of 30 to 100 students: 30 seconds per question
    • Classes of more than 100 students: 1 minute per question
  • Allow time for discussion between questions (30-70% correct response rate desired before discussion).
  • Do not ask too many questions; use them for the key points.


  • Use a "correct answer" indicator to visually identify the appropriate answer.
  • Position the questions at periodic intervals throughout the presentation.
  • Increase responsiveness by using a "countdown timer" that will close polling after a set amount of time.
  • Test the system in the proposed location to identify technical issues (lighting, signal interference, etc.)
  • On the actual day of the session, allow time to set out clickers and start system.
  • Rehearse actual presentation to make sure it will run smoothly.
  • Provide clear instructions on how to use the clickers to the audience.
  • Do not overuse the system or it will lose its "engagement" potential.

Best Practices for Implementing Clickers in the Classroom 36.

  • Good teaching is not about technology

To Sum it Up: but technology can make good teaching a whole lot easier to achieve. 37. 38. Thank you!

  • Questions and Concerns?


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