March 5, 2013
Use clicker questions as prompts for peer instruction
Instructors can use clicker questions to initiate a pair-share activity or peer instruction. When using peer instruction, faculty pose a question about a concept that many students have difficulty understanding. When presented as a ConcepTest clicker question, the answer options include statements of erroneous beliefs and misconceptions many students have about this topic. Before displaying the correct answer to the question, instructors ask students to discuss their answer with another student and try to persuade one another of the correct answer. When the question is posed a second time, more students will answer correctly, based on information they learn through discussion with peers. Instructors should follow a peer instruction activity with a discussion of why alternatives that represent misconceptions are wrong. They can elicit these comments from students. This activity creates unambiguous feedback about the correct response and reinforces the value of the peer learning activity.
Faculty in STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) have developed extensive collections of questions designed to probe student understanding of difficult concepts. Conduct a Google search on the terms ConcepTest and the name of your discipline to locate resources and examples of ConcepTest questions. Research on the impact of peer instruction activities supported by discussions of these questions indicates that peer instruction promotes deep and enduring learning.
Constructing questions that probe difficult concepts and identify common student misconceptions can be a daunting task. Fortunately, many faculty who use clicker questions for peer instruction collect their best questions and share these with other instructors. An excellent collection of clicker question collections is posted on the Concordia University Centre for Teaching and Learning Services website:
The site provides links to databases of clicker and ConcepTest questions for the following disciplines:
Chemistry (4 databases)
Mathematics (2 databases)
Many of these clicker questions use the ConcepTest format pioneered by Eric Mazur for implementing peer instruction in physics classes at Harvard. The Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (University of British Columbia) has an excellent set of resources for the use of clickers to promote student learning. This site also provides links to collections of ConcepTest and clicker questions for STEM disciplines.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science hosts a collection of questions that assess conceptual understanding of concepts in the sciences and identify common misconceptions held by students (with data on the percentage of students in grades 6-8 and 9-12 who endorse these misconceptions). The site also includes an archive of scholarly publications that document the existence of these misconceptions.
A related initiative associated with Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) examines how POGIL methods can be implemented through clicker questions. A discussion of this work in college courses in STEM can be found on the POGIL site.
March 6, 2012
Using clickers in upper level STEM courses
Eric Mazur has been promoting the use of Concept Test questions to promote deep learning of concepts in physics and other STEM disciplines.
The Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia has an excellent resource page and collection of YouTube videos that describe how to create and use effective clicker questions in class. Videos are short (1-4 minutes) depictions of specific clicker techniques in use in a large classroom. The site also includes a useful 36-page PDF Clicker Resource Guide that discusses how to write effective questions, introduce students to the value of clicker questions for learning, manage discussions and class activities prompted by clicker questions, and deal with unexpected situations.
Many instructors express concern about the trade-off between time spent on discussions prompted by clicker questions and time spent covering content in a lecture. The authors of the Clicker Resource Guide discuss this trade-off and describe the benefits to learning associated with using clicker questions. For example, they find that clicker questions promote deeper learning and understanding of concepts addressed in these questions. Students are motivated to read course material before class so they are prepared to engage in the activities and discussions prompted by clicker questions. Finally, when instructors evaluate which concepts students understand well based on responses to clicker questions, they can strategically devote more time to concepts that students find most challenging. In addition, instructors might find that they can reallocate class time that they have used to review concepts students easily learn from the assigned reading and devote this time to a discussion of other material.
Link to the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative
Link to YouTube video of Eric Mazur describing his use of clickers
November 8, 2011
Using game show formats to engage students with course content
Are you looking for a novel way to review material, encourage participation, or use an activity to refocus attention during a lecture? Consider incorporating games in your class to involve your students in the learning process.
Benefits of using games
Tips for successful use of games for learning
Want to try using a popular game show format for a class session? Several web sites offer free templates that enable you to transform a PowerPoint presentation into a game show. Download the template and add your course questions and material.
Downloadable Game Templates
PowerPoint Games (http://jc-schools.net/tutorials/ppt-games/)
Includes Who Wants to be a Millionaire (PowerPoint Template by Mark E. Damon), Jeopardy, & Password
Template for Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?
Family Feud Demo Video
Template: http://www.gameshowvideos.com/files/feud.pptx (Link removed 2/22/12)
This tip is based on a contribution from Allison Boye, Suzanne Tapp, and Micah Meixner Logan, Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center, Texas Tech University (http://www.tltc.ttu.edu).
Millis, B.J. and Cottell, P.G. (1998). Cooperative learning for higher education faculty. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press.
Jones, K. (1997). Games and simulations made easy: Practical tips to improve learning through gaming. London: Kogan Page Ltd.
Rosato, J.L. (1995). All I ever needed to know about teaching law school I learned teaching kindergarten: Introducing gaming techniques into the law school classroom. Journal of Legal Education, 45, 568 – 581.
Sarason, Y. and Banbury, C. (2004). Active learning facilitated by using a game-show format, or who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? Journal of Management Education, 28, 509 – 518.
September 6, 2011
Use PowerPoint to prompt engaging learning activities during class
Dilbert depicts PowerPoint presentations as a direct route to slumber and employee revolt. PowerPoint presentations need not be deadly. Instructors can create slides that prompt class activities that engage students, motivate meaningful class discussion, and promote deep learning (Berk, 2011).
Instructors commonly organize and plan the presentation of content while they create a set of PowerPoint slides. Consider creating slides to plan and prompt engaging learning activities at key points during a class presentation.
Instructors who use personal response systems (clickers) can add a slide that poses a question to evaluate student understanding of a critical concept or to ask students to apply a model or principle to a specific application. Allow students a moment to think individually or discuss the question in small groups before they record their response to the question with their clickers.
An instructor who does not use clickers can present a slide that poses a question as a prompt for small group discussion (e.g., as a pair-share activity) or a brief in-class written response to the question (e.g., a minute paper).
Share responses to the prompt with the entire class. If using clicker questions, display a chart summarizing the pattern of responses from the group. Otherwise, ask for a show of hands for typical responses or initiate a class discussion in which several groups report the consensus response from their discussion.
Wrap up the discussion and refocus attention on the content that triggered the activity.
Include no more than one or two of these engagement slides during a class session to engage student interest and focus attention on critical points for the day’s lesson.
Berk, R. A. (2011). “Powerpoint® engagement” techniques to foster deep learning. Journal of Faculty Development, 25, 45-48.
Bruff, D. (2009). Teaching with classroom response systems: Creating active learning environments. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
November 9, 2010
Improve the technical preparation of students in your class by describing the technical skills and specialized software needed for your course during course registration
Students will begin registering for courses on November 15.
All UWF students are expected to have an active ArgoNet e-mail account, regular access to e-mail (2-3 times a week), and basic skills in the use of a word processor. Many courses make additional demands on technology skills, including the ability to use web conferencing for Elluminate sessions, access to D2L, the ability to use course functions in D2L (such as uploading material to an assignment drop box), and the use of specialized software required for tasks such as statistical analysis, creation of power point presentations, or creation and manipulation of digital images.
The academic course search pages on the UWF web site include icons for each course that allow students to view the course syllabus, determine whether the course is an eLearning course or a distance learning course (and whether the instructor will be present in the location for that section), determine the extent of computer use expected in the course, and identify other technology needs associated with the course (special software available only in a lab, Elluminate, need to purchase a clicker, use of proctored exams, and other specialized software or technology needs).
If you expect students to use specific technology in your course, identify these needs on your syllabus and set the appropriate technology codes for the course. After logging into MyUWF, select the Classmate App and then click on the Syllabus/Tech Codes link under Action to open an interface for uploading your syllabus. This interface also includes drop-down menus that allow instructors to set technology codes for their course. When a technology code is selected, the appropriate icon will appear in the course search output for this course. A full list of the technology codes available for the course search interface can be found at https://nautical.uwf.edu/people/techCodesExplained.cfm.
January 26, 2010
Encouraging active learning by adding clicker questions to your class
Student response systems (“clickers”) can be used in a variety of ways to engage students with course content and promote deep learning. Clickers can also promote the development of faculty expertise in addressing problems in student learning. For example, Derek Bruff notes that one instructor was shocked when he discovered that students’ performance on a clicker question did not improve after students heard his standard explanation of a confusing concept. He had firmly believed that this explanation was crystal clear, but student performance clearly indicated that this explanation did not improve student understanding. Students were just as confused after hearing the explanation as before. The instructor decided that he needed to find a better way to explain this concept and discovered that he could use clicker questions to determine immediately whether a given explanation improved student understanding.
Want to learn more about strategies for using clickers?
The Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching has a rich supply of resources on the use of clickers, including a list of resources organized by discipline:
You can also find a useful resource page full of technical examples, including some video demonstrations of instructors using clickers on the Vanderbilt site:
Derek Bruff also hosts a blog, Teaching with Classroom Response Systems:
UWF now hosts a Student Response System Users Group as a Google Group.
Click on the Sites option in your UWF GMail to access and join this group.
October 28, 2008
Using Clicker Technology in Large Classes
Embedding questions in a large lecture and requiring student responses via clickers can motivate students to attend class, complete readings and assignments as preparation for class discussion, generate interest in course material, evaluate student learning mid-lecture, or apply new learning to conceptual or practical problems. The types of questions posed and how the instructor uses student responses are important for the successful use of these devices.
Woelk (2008) provides a useful taxonomy of the types of questions that can be posed:
Students enrolled in sections of courses that included clicker questions during lectures outperformed students enrolled in sections (taught by the same instructor) in which students could answer questions as an optional out-of-class activity (Radosevich, et al., 2008; Reay, 2008; Woelk, 2008). The improvements observed in exam performance persist in long-term follow-up exams.
Interested in learning more about the use of clickers in the classroom?
Attend the November 7 Faculty Friday to try using clickers yourself and listen to faculty who are using these devices in an ongoing pilot project at UWF.
Radosevich, D. J., Salomon, R., Radosevich, D. M., & Kahn, P. (2008). Using student response systems to increase motivation, learning, and knowledge retention. Innovate 5 (1).
Reay, N. W., Li, P., & Bao, L. (2008). Testing a new voting machine question methodology. American Journal of Physics, 76, 171-178.
Woelk, K. (2008). Optimizing the use of personal response devices (clickers) in large-enrollment introductory courses. Journal of Chemical Education, 85, 1400-1405.
Updated 03/05/12 cdw
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