Top 12 Best Practices for Clickers in the Classroom


I recently had the opportunity to write a whitepaper for DYMO/Mimio Interactive Teaching Technologies about use of hi-tech Student Response Systems (aka “clickers”) in the classroom.  In full disclosure, DYMO/Mimio, a Newell Rubbermaid company, is my former employer.

When I was working in the educational technology hardware industry one of the most common questions I was asked was some variation of “Can you show me research that says that if I put this equipment in my classroom my students’ outcomes will improve?”  This was a question that I got not just from customers, but from colleagues alike.  It was a fascinating and shocking question to me.  The idea that adding a chunk of metal and plastic into a classroom would suddenly, magically, transform academic performance was one that people so badly wanted to be true…an educational panacea…what better way to solve the education problem AND generate sales?

Of course, as a learning scientist, my career has been spent studying how to arrange instruction and the instructional environment to generate optimal learner outcomes.  And over the years I had yet to see a film projector, overhead projector, DVD player…and yes, even an interactive white board (IWB), laptop, tablet or student response system that, by its very addition to the classroom, produced meaningful change in learner performance.  My instructional design colleagues and I scratched our heads….it was a mystery to us that some didn’t recognize this hardware for what it was….a set of tools whose meaningful use was utterly dependent upon effective instructional design and curriculum.

When research about the positive impact of using Student Response Systems started appearing more frequently in the literature you can imagine the excitement in the industry.  But the understanding of why those effects were being produced…of which instructional practices were most appropriate for SRS devices to be used effectively…was still all but absent.  That challenge was the impetus for this whitepaper.  To say, “Yes, using devices in the classroom can impact learner outcomes….BUT, the manner in which the device is implemented instructionally is what determines the success.

I’ve excerpted from the whitepaper my top 12 best practice recommendations here, as well as the set of 65 references I culled from the literature.  Happy reading and please share your experiences using clickers in your own classroom!  What’s worked best for you??

Top 12 Best Practices for Clickers in the Classroom

1. Remember that the primary use of SRS should be for formative assessment. Increasing opportunities to evaluate student performance allows real-time adjustment of instruction.

2. Include only those questions that are pertinent to the targeted student learning outcomes; questions that are arbitrary or irrelevant should not be used.

3. Integrate questions throughout the lesson so that student understanding can be evaluated frequently and regularly. Leaving all questions until the end of the lesson does not allow for changing the instruction along the way.

4. Endeavor to write questions that target some of higher-level skills described by Bloom’s
Taxonomy (Pear et al., 2001). Multiple-choice questions are not restricted to low-level
skills, if written properly.

5. When working on new skill acquisition, include enough questions with novel examples to ensure that students are getting sufficient practice and generalization opportunities.

6. Be careful not to give away an answer through irrelevant cues, such as a pattern of correct answers or the wording of the question.

7. If you include items in which the student must identify the answer that does NOT
belong, write the word “NOT” in all capital letters and in bold, so that it is as clear
as possible.

8. Ensure that the correct answer is clearly the best one, but do use plausible distracters.
The point is not to trick the learners. The point is to use the questions to evaluate the
instruction the learners have received.

9. When using Vote-Discuss-ReVote methods in class, do not show graphs of student
response distribution following the first vote in order to avoid biased response shifting.

10. Make sure you review and analyze the data after the class is over. By examining
the patterns of what worked and what did not, you can improve the instruction for
next time!

11. If you want to increase attendance in your class, use the SRS daily.

12. Be willing to throw out or regrade questions that are unclear.

To download and read the entire whitepaper, please visit THE Journal: http://thejournal.com/whitepapers/2012/03/dymomimio_student-response-systems-improve-outcomes.aspx

References

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About karen mahon

i am a behavior and learning scientist. i hold an ed.d. in educational psychology and am trained as an instructional designer. i have spent more than 15 years working in education and instructional software design.
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7 Responses to Top 12 Best Practices for Clickers in the Classroom

  1. “Can you show me research that says that if I put this equipment in my classroom my students’ outcomes will improve?” This is the golden question, but an amazing one at that! Technology can either enhance or cripple a students learning. Thank you for this great article on response systems!

  2. This technology is a tool and is only as good as the individual using it. An ineffective teacher/facilitator will not “magically” become more effective just because he/she has a SRS (or other piece of equipment) in the classroom. I can go to the store and buy the most expensive circular saw and drill set. These don’t make me a master builder. If I am not a trained (and practiced) general contractor, then the tools are useless. It is because of this concept that initial and ON-GOING high-quality training and support must be part of any budget/purchase. If you are working with a salesperson or company that doesn’t have a proven track record of delivering high-quality training and professional development, I suggest that you look to another vendor.

  3. karen mahon says:

    Erin, interesting point and thanks for your input. I would focus less on the teacher being ineffective and more on the instructional methods being ineffective, I think. Teachers (and all of the rest of us, for that matter) are only as good as our training…which I think is what you are getting at. There is a distinction to be made, too, between knowing how to USE these devices versus knowing how to INTEGRATE them into effective instructional methods. I have not seen any hardware provider do a good job of the latter in professional development. Heck, I don’t even see vendors doing that with their own sales teams! I have walked onto booths on show floors where sales reps don’t even know what instructional objectives ARE, nevermind how to best use technology in support of attaining them.

    Training and PD that focuses on features of the devices and not benefits of the integration are a net loss for schools. And I don’t think we can expect customers, pre-purchase, to be able to evaluate a vendor’s ability to address the integration piece. I don’t blame schools for not wanting to purchase ongoing training if they don’t know what that training will actually DO for them. And I think until hardware vendors have true instructional design and curriculum experts on staff there is no reason to believe that the training will produce anything other than teachers who know how to turn devices on and off, and how to use features. And as you know, Erin, that generally results in product that sits in boxes.

    I have heard representatives of hardware vendors say things like, “It’s not our job to tell teachers how to teach.” I would argue that it IS the vendor’s responsibility to educate themselves about the best practices for the integration and then advise, encourage and lead the teachers in the implementation so that their overall instruction is improved. That is what true customer service is all about.

  4. Missy says:

    For classrooms that are equipped with iPads, there is an app called Socrative that is a free SRS. Someone demonstrated it at a meeting last month. Seems easy to use.

    • karen mahon says:

      Missy, yes, I’ve heard of that app too. I think it’s a great idea for schools with iPad implementations. One of the reasons I love iPad implementations is their versatility. Using a free or inexpensive app makes so much sense…small up-front investment and easy to upgrade when newer, better apps come along. A nice, flexible solution for the classroom.

      Anyone out there using these in classrooms? What about Android clicker apps?

  5. Pingback: Best of 2012 – These are a few of my favorite things! | disrupt learning!

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