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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Student reaction to clickers

This is a follow-up to my previous post about how I use clickers in the 500-seat Micro Principles class.

Although I do not have direct evidence of how clickers impact student learning, I have survey responses to several questions about clickers (SDSU’s Instructional Technology Services provides a survey that they ask all clicker-using faculty to administer at the end of each semester). Responses to these questions suggest that students believe clickers help them learn and make them feel more involved:
  • Class clicker usage helps me to remember important course content: 80.6% strongly or somewhat agree; 7.3% strongly or somewhat disagree
  • Class clicker usage helps me focus on course content I should study outside of class: 70.9% strongly or somewhat agree; 9.7% strongly or somewhat disagree
  • Class clicker usage makes me more likely to attend class: 85% strongly or somewhat agree; 5.3% strongly or somewhat disagree
  • Class clicker usage helps me to feel more involved in class: 83.5% strongly or somewhat agree; 6.3% strongly or somewhat disagree
  • I understand why my professor is using clickers in this course: 94.7% strongly or somewhat agree; 0.97% strongly or somewhat disagree
  • My professor asks clicker questions which are important to my learning: 92.2% strongly or somewhat agree; 1.5% strongly or somewhat disagree
  • Buying the clicker and getting it working was worthwhile: 68% strongly or somewhat agree; 12.6% strongly or somewhat disagree
[These percentages are from Spring 2009 (n=206, 56% of enrollment). The percentage agreeing with these statements has risen each of the three semesters I’ve taught the large lecture and the percentage disagreeing has fallen.]

This doesn't mean students love clickers; the percentage that "would select a course section which uses clickers over another section of the same course which did not use clickers" or that "would like more professors to use clickers in their courses" are far smaller (41.7% and 53.4%, respectively). One question where I think the responses are quite telling is: "Class clicker usage makes the class feel smaller to me (less crowded, more intimate)": only 37.4% strongly or somewhat agree and 20.4% strongly or somewhat disagree (42.2% neither agree nor disagree). To me, this reinforces the difficulty of making a big class "seem small". I'm come to believe that it's pointless to try - a room that seats 500 students is never going to feel 'intimate', even if there are way fewer than 500 bodies sitting there. However, that doesn't mean that one can't use interactive techniques. The way I'd put it is that clickers have allowed me to continue teaching in a 'small-class style' even though it's a much larger section.


  1. Thanks for sharing this insight into your use of clickers. Regarding the goal of making the class feel smaller (in spite of the 500 students in the room), do you have the students discuss (perhaps in pairs) their answers to clicker questions before voting? Or do they just vote independently?

    I would expect that small-group discussion prior to voting would help the class feel a little smaller.

  2. I never tell students that they CAN'T discuss their answers so even if I don't specifically instruct them to talk with their neighbors, there is generally some chatter during the response time. If a large portion of the class gets a question wrong the first time around, then I will specifically ask them to discuss their answers with neighbors and I re-ask the question. I do think that students end up feel more involved and engaged than they expected to but I just am not surprised that they don't really perceive the class as feeling 'small'.

  3. Hi Jennifer, this is Kevin working with PowerCom, I'm glad that you shared your ideas about clickers. It's true that using clickers will help to boost learning for student, it promotes attentiveness and grabs audience attention.


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