Get the most from your Audience Response System (clickers).

September 26, 2016

Part 2 – Get the most from your Student Response System (clickers).

If you missed the first part of this article you can read it here

This article covers some of what I believe to be the fundamental principles to gaining the most out of using a clicker (or audience response/ student response system) system in class.

There are 4 steps we refer too:

  1. Establish objectives for your lecture.
  2. Determine the context for interactive slides.
  3. Create the questions.
  4. Integrate questions into your lecture.

In the first blog post I covered the establishing objectives and determining context for your interactive polling questions.

This post covers the remaining 2 steps, creating questions and integrating them into you presentation and lecture.

I’d also recommend reaching out to other lectures you may know at your university who have taught or teaching with clicker for their advice, they may have some great tips from their experience at your institution. Having said that now that you have set your objectives and contexts (the occasion/s at which you plan to ask the questions) we can address creating your interactive slides.

Creating clicker questions for class

The below is a compilation of suggestions found in books, articles and interviews with different lectures teaching different subjects across the world:

Do not make questions overly complex.

Keep questions short to optimise clarity. Most studies suggest offering no more than five answer options. Avoid requiring lots of complex calculations that may encourage students to guess rather than think through the question. 6

Simplify your sentences and questions.

A question should be easy to read and understand in a short period of time. Questions that have too many unnecessary words may create confusion, slow down the pace of the class, and produce unreliable results. Most educators agree that clicker questions should never display more than 25 to 30 words. 6

Keep slides easy to see and uncluttered.

Don’t get distracted by all the different objects, backgrounds, and graphics you can place into a slide or presentation. Using too many of these objects and graphics can create confusion, distraction, and even difficulty reading the slide. Use only the objects that are necessary for students to understand the question and for you to feel comfortable with the results. 1

Include extra answer options.

Consider adding a “Not Sure” or “Abstain” option to True/ False, multiple choice, or even discussion generating questions. This will add interest and increase the percentage of students who respond to the question, as well as give you an idea of how many students may not truly understand the topic. 1

Enhance questions with images.

Images can add an important dimension to a question, and offer the class another point of reference in selecting a response. Turning Point has a capability that will even allow you to use images as possible answers.

Survey opinions and feelings.

Offer questions that do not necessarily have right or wrong answers. Likert questions, for example, can provide an important outlet for a class to express opinions about controversial topics. Students also like to see how their opinions compare to the rest of the class. These questions generate great class discussions.

Intersperse questions throughout your presentation.

Students enjoy having the opportunity to provide input, and can provide you with valuable feedback as to how they are absorbing the material. Therefore, if you place questions strategically throughout your lecture, instead of lumped together at the end, you can not only keep the class engaged, but also gather the information necessary to see where a class might start going astray. 1

Use a “warm-up” question.

Insert a question at the beginning of class, to “warm-up” the students. This allows them to get situated, and to quickly focus on class material, during the time that they might usually sit idle or socialize.

Connect question topics together.

Questions are often effective when logically linked together with the solution to the previous question. This helps to promote continuity and dialogue with the class. 1

Pose questions with no clear answer.

A University of Massachusetts study suggests, ‘There is less need for rigor when questions are low risk. Questions may include deliberate (or accidental) mistakes, be ill-posed, invalid, or ambiguous. E.G. a multiple-choice question, for which only one selection is required, may have more than one correct choice, no correct choices, or choices that are only partially correct. These “unsound” questions may provoke discussion and support better.” 2

Consider delaying the answer choices.

Questions may be better delivered in “hidden” mode, in which answer choices are delayed until after the question has been attempted or discussed. For example, if a student can verify the correct choice by working backwards, it is appropriate to hide the possibilities until an answer has been worked out. You can do this by using custom animations on your answers, and setting them to appear after the question. 1

Try asking questions more than once. (A modification on Peer Instruction)

Ask a question, show the results but not the correct answer, and ask students to discuss with neighbours or in groups, then re-poll the question with TurningPoint. This will allow the class to reconsider the answer, as well as see how that changed the responses. 5

Let your audience know what is going on within the slide.

Increase responsiveness by adding a “Correct Answer” indicator to visually identify the appropriate answer, and/or a “Countdown Timer” which will close polling after a set amount of time. 7

Integrating your interactive (polling) questions into your presentation

Just as there are many strategies for creating questions, there are multiple approaches to integrating questions into a lecture. Below are suggestions, but be creative and use methods that work well for you!

Use a question cycle to develop a plan for lecture.

Ask a question via Turning Point, then allow students group discussion and answer time. After the students respond, show the chart and use it to generate class discussion, this time asking for reasoning. Based on ideas generated during discussion, you can follow up with general observations, a brief micro-lecture, perhaps another related TurningPoint question, or any necessary materials for closing, as well as final responses. Be sure to allow time for discussion when planning your lesson. 2

Ask demographic questions to allow for more in depth analysis.

Assign demographics to track how specific student groups respond. For example, looking at basic results, you can see that 75% of students understood the material. However, by viewing responses grouped by demographics, you may find that 75% were all subject majors and that non-majors were confused, allowing the opportunity to change the way you may explain the material

Allow the students to steer the lecture.

Modify your lecture in real-time, based on the students’ responses. Use on-the-fly slides or conditional branching to allow for various answers. See more from Derek Bruff on Agile learning.

Create slides and questions to add to regular discussion.

Use your slides to emphasize a theme, incident, or character that is important to the day’s lecture. Include students in the discussion of the results.

Use for review.

Studies show that students benefit most with a combination of review questions and opinion questions. Try asking review questions that cover similar material and ask questions similar to what will be covered on the test. This helps to develop the students’ processing skills, as well as familiarity with material.

Ask a question to create the discussion for the day.

Try asking a controversial question (or just a question the students will have varied and strong opinions about), and use the results to create the day’s class discussion.

Use for participation or attendance.

Assign point values to answers instead of simply setting them as right or wrong and award attendance and/or participation points.

Create competitions and teams for review or discussion.

Add a competitive element by tracking individual teams, groups, or students with Turning Point. You can then view individual or team scores from your session, or even see who answered the fastest by adding a “Fastest Responder” slide to your presentation. 7

Additional Considerations

Provide clear instruction to the class.

Make sure everyone understands the process and how to use the technology. This may require extra time during the first couple uses. Be sure to allow time for instructions when planning your lesson. 4

Test everything ahead of time.

Check out the classroom location in order to identify any potential technical problems. Allow plenty of time to set up and test the system before class. Rehearse the question presentation to ensure that it will run smoothly. 4

Do not over use the system.

Ask questions sparingly to highlight the concepts you most want to emphasize. Think carefully about the main points of a lecture and create questions to target them. 4

Allot extra time for your presentations.

Question slides take time to ask, as well as to answer. Allow enough time in your lesson for interactive questions and student discussion (if applicable), especially if the students are working in teams. 4

Resources and references

  1. Banks, David. Audience Response Systems in Higher Education: Applications and Cases. Information Science Publishing: Hershey, PA. 2006.
  2. Beatty, lan D., William J. Gerace, William J. Leonard, and Robert J. Dufresne. Designing Effective Questions for Classroom Response System Teaching. University of Massachusetts. Retrieved on October 23, 2006.
  3. Columbia University Effective Use of the Audience Response System: A Primer. Centre for Education Research and Development. Retrieved on October 23, 2006.
  4. The Ohio State University Clickers in Practice. Technology Enhanced Learning & Research. Retrieved on October 23, 2006.
  5. Peterson, Geoffrey D. To Click or Not To Click: The Impact of Student Response Systems on Political Science Courses. University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Retrieved on March 5, 2007. http://www.apsanet.orq/tlc2007 / TLC07Peterson.pdf
  6. Robertson, Lorraine J. (2000) Twelve Tips for using a computerized interactive audience response system. Medical Teacher, 22 (3), 237-239. Retrieved March 5, 2007.
  7. Turning Technologies, LLC Best Practices Retrieved on October 23, 2006. rninq/bestpractices.cfm

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