Engaging students in larger classes

Clickers have slowly been introduced in large (and medium sized) classes in the last two years. We asked one of our early adopters to do a presentation and talk on clicker use in her classroom. I pulled a few key ideas from her talk and my interpretation on them:

Types of questions
“Read studies in your field of common student misconceptions, and address these questions. “
In class questions and feedback demonstrate the faulty logic and give you the change to immediately dismantle the misconceptions and assumptions. These misconceptions can become enormous road blocks to students future learning.

“Write knowledge questions: based on information from readings, a past lecture or a few slides ago”
This ties in with keeping your questions aligned with your teaching objectives – while it may be fun to ask a off-beat or simply interesting question, your students may lose interest and faith in this technique if it does not relate to the learning and assessment described in your objectives and outline.

“Write predictive questions: show a slide with some facts or information, and ask a if/then question”
If you choose to describe an experiment or series of events, students will be far more interested in the result if they’ve used the clickers to predict the outcome. You can present a series of facts on one slide, and the ask – what was the outcome. If X were applied, what would the outcome be? This engages students in the material in a complex manner – they are shifting through knowledge and evidence to analyze the facts and apply their learning to a problem.

“If you register your clicker as an instructor iclicker, and then lend it to a student, mysterious things will happen”
If you use the iClicker technology, you’ll receive one or two blue iClickers. They’re blue to remind you that they’re yours, not your students (who get a white clicker). You can program this clicker to advance PowerPoint slides, start and stop a clicker question, and display or hide the responses. If you do choose to program this iClicker, and lend it to a student, they won’t be able to answer the clicker questions, but will inadvertently create havoc with your presentation.

“The student – instructor dynamic will change”
If you use clickers, you can expect more office hours. Students are being shown misconceptions or gaps in knowledge before the midterm or final, and some will use the knowledge to seek you out for answers (or with more questions!).

In addition, if the clickers are increasing your attendance (due to grades being assigned for answers), your student evaluations may go down initially. The students who would normally be reluctant or resistant are more likely to be in the classroom on the day you hand out the evaluation forms, and may express this opinion on the forms. That being said, the majority of the students do like the clickers and think that they improve their learning.

For more information on clicker use and implementation at SFU, go to this information page or email Amy Severson at ajs {at} sfu.ca.


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