Here are some benefits instructors and students are currently receiving by using clickers (some may be received simultaneously- they are not mutually exclusive). Both the student and instructor gain information that is either (1) unobtainable without clickers, (2) difficult to acquire without clickers, or (3) would be received at a much later time in the course without clickers. The timing of information can be critical. The instructor and student don't have to wait until after a formal assessment to find out the level of acquired knowledge. Clickers provide that almost instantly.
Student engagement: Clicker questions force students to do more than sit, listen, and take notes during class. Questions stimulate a different part of the brain and require students to engage in material in a way they otherwise may not. Questions can be used to
- initiate or direct discussions (Jackson and Trees, 2003)
- foster interaction with other students (Knight and Wood, 2005)
Student preparation: To encourage students to come to class more prepared, questions can be used to
- ask questions about homework or readings (Knight and Wood, 2005)
- confirm prelab or other class procedures
Student confidence: Students increasingly want feedback about their performance and often request it quickly. Doing homework or completing quizzes may incorporate timing issues that delay feedback and cause students to doubt their understanding of material. Answering questions in class as the material is presented will build student confidence as correct answers are identified immediately. Incorrect answers will provide signals to students that more effort is required so that understanding may come more quickly than it would otherwise. Clicker questions can
- confirm a student's understanding of a topic
- identify areas of weakness and provide direction for future study
Instructor feedback: A low correct response rate could be an indication the material was not presented in the most effective way. The results graph will allow the instructor to quickly assess the presentation and incorporate modifications or clarifications.
Increased attendance: Students will have a stronger desire to attend class because clickers create a more dynamic class environment. Even if students are coming just for the clicker questions because the technology is mandatory, they are likely to absorb other aspects of class while attending and should learn more than they would otherwise.
Assessment: Clicker questions can be used as substitutes for traditional quizzes or exams. Since the data are stored electronically, the need for scantrons and other grading tools is eliminated. Less formal than quizzes or exams, the "Did you get that?" or "Is everyone with me?" question can be mixed into lectures to ensure students are sufficiently understanding material before moving forward. Clicker questions can
- assess student understanding of material from that day's class
- reveal misunderstandings of topics covered in class (Wood, 2004)
- determine the future direction and level of detail of class
- gauge student understanding of the previous class
- assess student ability to apply class material to new situations
- allow students to assess their own level of understanding at the end of a class (Halloran, 1995)
Take surveys or conduct a poll: Instead of asking a question such as "How many of you believe the following statement is false?" and counting (or estimating) the number of raised hands, clickers can quickly and precisely collect that data and display a results graph. Students have a stronger incentive to ignore peer pressure and answer more truthfully since their answer is anonymous to the rest of class. Questions can be used to
- collect votes about a subject (Draper, 2002)
- survey student opinions about aspects of class (e.g. style and pace)
- poll student attitudes or opinions about a particular topic
- identify pre-existing level of knowledge or understanding
Enliven the classroom environment: Students will literally audibly groan when most of the class answers incorrectly and cheer when most of the class answers correctly. Clickers can add energy to a classroom.
Collect data: Student responses can be used to construct a data set for homework or in-class exercises. Since the data are collected in a .csv file, it can easily be used to construct tables and graphs.
Preview quiz or exam questions: Instructors can "field test" a question during class to identify errors, points of confusion, and difficulty levels before actually using it on a formal assessment.
Homework: Some clicker technology allows a student to store answers in the clicker at home and submit them in class. Grading is much easier for the instructor since the data are submitted electronically.
A Classroom Response System offers many opportunities to combine the technology with other teaching pedagogies including Just-In-Time Teaching, Interactive Lectures, Cooperative Learning, Classroom Experiments, and Interactive Lecture Demonstrations.