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Friday, January 8, 2010

Another 'duh' moment

One problem I've always had with doing peer instruction using the CPS software from eInstruction is that you can either set it so that the answer distribution shows up immediately on the slide after the clicker question is closed, or not, and that applies for the entire session. There is no easy way for the instructor to see what the answer distribution is without also showing that distribution to the class. This means that if the answer distribution is mixed and I want to do peer instruction, students will also have seen the answer distribution and that can create issues with students assuming that whatever answer got the highest number of responses must be correct.

At a recent workshop, I mentioned this issue and Mike Salemi suggested that I blank or freeze the projector before the answer distribution shows up; that way, I can see the distribution on the monitor at the podium but the students won't see it. I have no idea why that never occurred to me before but all I could think of was, "Duh! Of course!"


  1. You can also us eInstruction's hand-held Mobi tablet. It will show you privately how everyone responded as a group and individual names as well!

  2. Thanks for the suggestion! It looks like the Mobi tablet may not work with the software I use (PPT plug-in) but if it does, this could be a great option!

  3. In the classrooms I usually use, I plug my laptop in to run my clicker questions. When I want to see the results of a clicker question without letting the students see it, I switch the projector from "laptop" to "PC" and show the students whatever is on the PC that comes with the room.

    Since the "blank" button on the projectors we use around here doesn't work like I always think it should, this has been my workaround. I'll sometimes pull up a funny picture to display on the PC while the students are looking at it, too!

  4. The "freeze" and "pic mute" buttons are definitely underutilized tools on our smart classroom control systems ...

    I've always thought of the peer instruction process as including the sharing of the response distribution after the first asking of the question, I guess mainly to help the group see how the distribution changes from the first to second ask of the question, and thus to perhaps increase some of the metacognition around the process. A good peer instruction question would typically have a fairly even split between the correct response and the most popular distractor. But I can see your concern about how that information might negatively affect the follow-on discussion if that first distribution was well off from the expected.

    I wonder if any of the peer instruction studies have compared results of the process when the answer distribution to the first question is revealed vs. not, and when the first answer distribution is heavily weighted toward a particular response (correct or not), or not.

  5. @Jim, I would love to see some studies of the sort you describe. I'm not aware of any, and I've been tracking clickers research over on my blog.

    I seem to recall that Eric Mazur's group at Harvard was looking into this show / not-show issue, but it's been a year since I asked him about that.


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