What: Clickers (personal polling devices) in a large lecture class
Who: Catherine Combelles, Assistant Professor of Biology
Class: BIOL0145 Cell Biology and Genetics
Technology Used: Personal Polling Devices (Clickers)
Number of students: approx. 70
Learning objective: To monitor the students’ understanding of concepts covered in lecture and promote peer learning and discussion.
Description of use: Catherine used the clickers for every lecture from day 1 to the last day of classes, and throughout the duration of each lecture. At the beginning of each lecure, she started with a question that tested their understanding of concepts from the past lecture or on their readings for the day. She would then pose between 3-4 more questions depending on the lecture content that day.
All of Catherine’s questions were prepared beforehand; she never created questions on the fly (although she would like to play with that in the future). She sometimes skipped a question if it became clear that it was not needed based on the students’ understanding. But typically, she asked all of the questions she had prepared. She would pose a question, let students answer on their own, then show the class how all students answered before showing the correct answer. If the answers were too spread out, without satisfactory agreement throughout the class, Catherine would have the students talk among themselves and convince their peers of their choice before re-answering. During the students’ discussion, she would walk around, listen, gauge what the learning issues may have been and answer or prompt further questions. With the help of this peer learning, the goal was to get most of the class to re-answer correctly.
Catherine says that the toughest part in all of this was writing good questions. Otherwise, she felt it was a fantastic way to pace the lecture, break at key points, check on students’ understanding before moving on, and trigger discussion on tougher questions that might be subject to interpretation.
Assessment: This technology proved very effective and helpful. Catherine will use the clickers again next year. Students responded positively to clicker use in their evaluations. They reported that the clickers were a fun way to stay engaged in lecture, raise quesitons and keep up with the material. There were criticisms about the quality of some of the questions, but the overwhelming feedback Catherine received was to continue using them.
This technology could potentially be used in a variety of lecture courses. Catherine would be happy to be approached by anyone that would like to learn more about them.