Examples

Here are some success stories from a few UW-Madison faculty who use clickers in their classrooms.

The UW-System clicker project website features a Showcase of Use section with a number of syllabi or excerpts of some UW-System faculty introducing clickers to their students. In addition, you can view samples of interactive presentations.

In their own words: Instructors talk about clickers

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Staring at a full classroom, the instructor asks herself, "Am I getting through to my students?" To find out, she poses a multiple-choice summary question and asks her students to provide the answer using a clicker, a small device about the size of a TV remote, also known as a student response system. She receives immediate feedback on her students' grasp of important concepts.

A growing number of instructors are using clickers to assess students' understanding. Several UW faculty who use clickers in the classroom talk about the technology and how it has affected their teaching:

Martin

Jay Martin, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has used clickers in several classes, including Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer: I believe in using active engagement techniques in the classroom. Clickers provide immediate feedback on the distribution of student answers to questions and a record of student responses that I can review over the long term.
I expect the technology to evolve, so that students will be able to use something like a cell phone as a clicker.
Clickers are anonymous [as opposed to students raising their hands in class], which is a huge benefit.
If there is a technology that works and is useful, I'm going to take advantage of it.

Martin

Bob Jeanne is a professor in the Department of Entomology who has used clickers in Biology 151, an introductory course for Biology majors with about 200 students:

Using a "peer-instruction" approach pioneered by Eric Mazur at Harvard, I pose multiple-choice questions during lecture to assess student understanding of difficult concepts. The clickers quantify students' responses in an instant. If more than 10-15% answer incorrectly, I ask students to turn to their neighbors and try to convince them of their answer. After a minute or two, they respond to the question a second time, and there is usually a significant increase in the number of right answers. Used in this way, clickers not only facilitate student engagement in the class, but the up-to-the-minute feedback allows me to modify my lecture on the fly to address lingering misunderstandings.

Our in-class surveys indicate that students feel this use of clickers improves their learning. The challenge for the instructor is to develop questions that get at whether a concept is really understood or if misconceptions persist, and this takes careful thought.

Martin

Cheryl Weston is a lecturer in the UW Law School and relies heavily on clickers in her Civil Procedure 1 course for about 80 first-year law students:

I can use clickers in a couple of ways. I prepare a slide with multiple-choice questions and ask students to answer using the clicker. The Law School uses a quasi-Socratic method where the instructor engages a student one-on-one and the others observe and learn from the exchange. Clickers provide excellent feedback on how the class is grasping the concepts.

Second, I use them in discussions of values and issues where the clicker enables students to give their opinion anonymously. I can poll the students and display a bar graph of the results. People are willing to own up to their point of view when they see that others share it.

With clickers, I'm aware of who is on track and who is participating. They facilitate discussion. I'm very enthusiastic about them.

Martin

Tom Sharkey, professor in the Department of Botany, also uses clickers in Biology 151, the large-enrollment intro course for Biology majors:

Students can "hide" in a lecture section. Some might be intimidated or find the back and forth of discussion to be difficult. Using clickers empowered students. They became invested in the class; some of the shyest students would make sure that their response registered and that their vote counted. The egalitarian nature of the clicker was a huge advantage for the class.

In my experience, clickers have helped average or weaker students, who are not always helped by case-based learning.

Clickers encourage self-assessment. I often ask questions from old exams and ask for clicker responses. This gives the students practice answering exam questions and gives them a sense of how well prepared they are.

Data I have collected on clicker use show that students like using them and students who use them do better in my class.

This is one of the few big innovations I've seen for how we do a big lecture. I'm very excited by clickers.