As an instructor with the Marine Institute’s School of Fisheries, I’ve been using clickers in the classroom for a couple of years and I love the results.
Clickers, which are also known as student response systems, are radio frequency devices used to transmit responses to multiple-choice, numerical and short-answer questions. Answers are collected by a wireless receiving device and software automatically tabulates and displays the anonymous responses in a bar graph to the entire class.
Clickers can be used in the classroom to increase interactivity of class lectures, increase student attention and engagement, increase preparedness for class, lower attrition rates, complete in-class quizzes and assignments, and assign class-participation grades.
After growing tired of the typical format of lecturing to students for 50 minutes, I decided to investigate methods of increasing student engagement in the classroom. I sat in on a lecture at Memorial University’s main campus to watch clickers in use and I was immediately impressed with how engaged the students were in the lecture material. The students were actively participating in class discussions and eagerly awaiting the next clicker question.
With the help and support of Charlene Walsh in MI’s Academic and Student Affairs, I investigated the idea of purchasing some clickers to give them a try in my class. We quickly discovered the devices are a user-friendly, fun and interactive way to engage students in the lecture material.
I have used clickers in classrooms to administer class quizzes in community-based courses on Newfoundland’s south coast and the results were remarkable. Going through the quiz responses and discussing them as a group is a great way for peer-to-peer learning to occur naturally, and it creates opportunities for some entertaining and healthy competition among classmates.
I’ve also used clickers recently when teaching some visiting Indonesian lecturers. I found the devices to be a very useful means of ascertaining the lecturers’ level of understanding of the course content they delivered. The participating lecturers had not used clickers in their classrooms before and were amazed at how these devices increased their engagement level in the lecture material and subsequent discussion.
My students also seem to enjoy using clicker quizzes to help them study for upcoming tests and exams. Clicker quizzes are a great way to ensure students stay on top of their lecture material and provide them with opportunities to seek clarification or discuss content they are unsure of.
I recently created a series of clicker questions to help my students prepare for an upcoming exam. On one particular question, the class was split 50-50 over the correct answer. I encouraged them to chat as a group about why they chose the answer they did and was literally able to step back and watch a debate take place among the students.
It was amazing to watch them interact with one another and to see how engaged they were in the discussion. When I asked the question again, almost all of the students agreed on the correct answer. This was peer learning at its finest.
I encourage all instructors to give clickers a try in their classrooms. The technology is easy to use and the results are immediate and remarkable.
Jillian Westcott is an aquaculture researcher and instructor with the School of Fisheries at the Marine Institute.
By Jillian Westcott
Marine Institute School of Fisheries