Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do *more* with clickers to engage students

It’s the beginning of term and I am planning against to use an audience response system in my class (i.e. clickers). If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I like to use the student’s own cellphones as their clickers (see here). They love it!

My twitter feed has brought me a few good tips and tricks about best practices for writing clicker questions, most of them from Derek Buff. He’s the author of Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments. He recently wrote two good blog posts on the subject. The first is a collection of resources from others and the second is a synthesis of Derek’s own 9 best practices for writing clicker questions.

I’ve got another ‘potential’ best practice that I am trying out this term. I am offering bonus marks to my students to formulate a clicker question for me. What I ask them to do is to formulate a potential clicker question for me when they are doing their readings for the week and then to post their suggested question to a public discussion forum on the class website. I explicitly ask them not to divulge the answer in their posting. Every student who submits a question will earn 0.2 bonus marks that week. I will then select one (or more) of the student submissions and use it in class. If I use a student’s question in class, they will get triple the bonus marks for that week!!! I will run this bonus mark program for 12 weeks so each student has a potential of 2.4% bonus (or more if any of their questions are selected for use in class).

I feel this activity gives students a lot of incentives to promote their learning in a positive environment:
  1. It gives students yet another incentive to do their readings before they come to class.

  2. It builds a question bank of multiple choice questions on the class website which could serve as a useful study-tool for test preparation.

  3. It engages the student. It gives them a feeling that they are contributing to the classroom learning community.

  4. It shows students that the instructor values their contribution to the class - especially when student authored questions are formally used in class.
What do you think about my ‘potential’ best practice in using clickers in class? Do you have one of your own? Please leave a comment below.


Nasser Saleh said...

Hi Eric .. it is a great idea; have you tried it yet? .. Nasser

Eric said...


I am trying it this term with my Molecular Biology course. We will see how it goes (*smile*)

Take care Nasser


Unknown said...

This has been a practice at all Universities in North America for ages. I agree with this method. Not only it engages students to discussions, but bring a more interesting overall classroom spirit which gives students the interests in such course.

However, looking at it from a college official's perspective, I don't think that the Ministry of Education can afford such technology put in all colleges and classrooms. Ontario publicly funds 25 colleges in the province. On average, a student's pay $2700.00 per annum for tuition, whereas a university student pays $5500.00 a year depending on each program. That is almost half of what the University students are paying, which truly shows what technology and facilities they get compared to colleges.

To have these Clickers integrated into College here Ontario, would mean more funding required from the Government. This could also raise the tuition fees that the student will be paying each year.

I totally agree with these Clicker because it's just an awesome technology that each student will be benefiting, but on the other hand, however, the question of who will pay for it is the question. Will the Government be funding it or will it come out of the student's pockets - knowing that for the last decade the tuition has raised tremendously.

I am a student at Eric's Molecular Genetics class and I enjoy having this online poll questions. The idea of a real Clickers in the classroom is definitely a step-up from a what I'm use to doing.

What do you think? Let me know.

Allen Genova Lee
Medical Laboratory Science student
St. Lawrence College
Kingston, Ontario

Eric said...

Well said Allen! Kudos.

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