I've been "attending" some of the webinars in the iClicker Pedagogy Webinar series over the last few weeks. They are organised for 1:00 EST, which translates to 6pm Irish time. If I race home from work, I can just about catch them while watching over the kids.
On 25th January, Roger Freedman (@RogerFreedman), Physics lecturer and clicker enthusiast, talked on the topic of Clickers in the Classroom: Pedagogical Best Practices. Roger gave a lovely presentation, making a compelling case for using clickers and demonstrating that there can be a significant learning gain from integrating them into teaching. The webinar was probably more suited to people getting started with clickers, but it was very interesting to see some of our experience here in NUIG being mirrored in what Roger was saying.
In March 2011, we invited student feedback on the use of clickers using an online survey. A total of 272 students responded, giving a 35% response rate.
What did they like?
When asked about what they liked about using clickers, a large number of students (71%) made some reference to active learning ("It made me sit up and think"). Smaller numbers of students mentioned anonymity as a positive, while 2 students mentioned social aspects - that clickers helped them get to know other members in the class.
What did they not like?
When asked what they didn't like, the responses were more diverse. A significant number (19%) said that the clicker questions were disruptive, that other students would start to chatter and it could take some time for the lecturer to regain control. Some students (12%) thought that the questions were not always being used well (questions too easy, questions too hard, trick questions) while about 7% of respondents thought that the clickers weren't being used enough.
None of the students appeared concerned about not covering material in lectures.
Attendance and Participation
In his talk, Roger noted the difference between Empowering and Compelling students to use clickers. They work best as a learning tool, and students prefer the formative feedback they offer, over grading or tracking attendance.
Outcomes of the initiative
In the survey, 79% of respondents said that the system should be used with first year students again, with 9% saying no. In fact, the College decided to expand the scheme and in September 2011 all first and second year students were provided with clicker devices.
One of the aims of the project was to promote intellectual engagement. From the student responses to the survey, active engagement is reported as an outcome. This may be due to the use of the clickers themselves, the changed teaching practice as a result of the use of clickers, or just a novelty factor associated with the devices. The student feedback supports findings from more substantive studies in the literature that clickers can play a positive part in student learning.