Free webinar, December 11th: ClickerStarter

by Stephanie Chasteen on December 5, 2014

I’m giving another free webinar for i>clicker this coming Thursday, December 11th, at 10 am ET (7 am PT).  This is called “ClickerStarter for College Faculty” and is intended as a quick primer on the effective use of clickers for those who want an overview of the benefits and uses of clickers.

Have you heard about using clickers in class, but haven’t gotten around to actually trying it? Let us introduce you to this powerful tool to increase student engagement, and help make teaching fun. In this interactive webinar, we’ll explore the why and how of using clickers to ask thoughtful questions that provoke student discussion. We’ll talk about the advantages of clickers, look at some example questions, discuss common challenges, and strategies for overcoming them. You will leave this webinar armed with resources and ideas, ready to try clickers in your class.

After the presentation, representatives from i>clicker will provide an overview of the technical aspects of setting up and using clickers in the classroom, and answer any questions.

Register here:

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Materials from the webinar:

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Clicker Q&A

by Stephanie Chasteen on December 4, 2014

As some teachers are just getting things rolling with clickers and peer instruction for the Spring, I thought I would share some questions that faculty have asked me about clickers and peer instruction. This is something I’ve added recently to my workshops, and am really liking it – I ask participants to share their questions in advance, and I discuss them during the workshop. I get a lot of insight this way as I’m preparing! (Read more about Just In Time Teaching)

So, here are some questions, and what I would say in response:

“How do I know students understood the topic, and are not just good at multiple choice questions?”
This is where skill in writing multiple choice questions comes in! If your students can get most of your questions right without really understanding the ideas, then you might need to rethink your questions so that they require the sort of reasoning that you want from students. Take a look at my earlier posts on How to make a good clicker question great and Opening your eyes to new types of clicker questions for some ideas.

“What is the best way to get students to work collaboratively in a way that helps them develop skills rather than just getting the right answer to the question?”
This is a big topic, that of getting students to buy-in to the use of clickers and, especially, to talking to their neighbors about the answer. Clickers should be a tool for creating productive conversation in order to get the maximum benefit. See my earlier post about Getting students on-board with clickers and peer discussion. Next month, I’ll be writing about points for clicker questions.

“Is it appropriate to use clickers as a means to poll students regarding their prior knowledge of a subject area?”
Yes! This is a great use of clickers, it lets you know where students are at, and target your instruction accordingly.

“Should students be given the clicker questions that are used in class as a study tool?”
I think so; if they’re good questions, they’re going to be helpful to let them reason through the ideas. However, we never post the answers to the clicker questions; once you give students the answer, that shuts down student thinking. You want them to have to put together the answer as part of their studying process. Plus, you don’t want the answers to get passed around if you can help it, so that next years’ students get a chance to answer them fresh, without knowing the answer.

“Do you require that every student in the class vote before closing the clicker question?”
In a small class, yes, but in a large class this is impractical. I try to give students plenty of time, and give them a count-down warning before I close the clicker question, but otherwise I just try to have a large majority vote.

“How much time would you spend discussing incorrect answers that have low frequency?”
Not much, but I would discuss them briefly. Sometimes students have answered correctly for the wrong reason, or sometimes they have simply given their neighbor’s answer without fully understanding it. Going over why the right answer is right, as well as why the wrong answers are wrong, helps make sure everybody’s on board.

“Should clicker questions become exam questions?”
I find clickers very helpful in class sizes down to 15-20; students can still “hide” in a small class, and the pedagogy is very useful in all size classes. The technology is also very helpful, in giving instant feedback to yourself and the students, and letting you save results for next year. That said, in classes that are less than 15 students, I will sometimes use colored cardsif the students don’t already have clickers and might grumble about the expense.

“How can I make thought-provoking questions, and structure answer choices so that all seem plausible?”
Practice practice practice! This is more an art than a science, though you can see the blog posts I mentioned earlier to help you think about different ways to write questions. One thing that I find helpful is to – as you sit down to write your lecture notes, think about where you might ask a question instead of telling students something. Or look for where you have to pause and think about something; that’s a great place for a question, because the students will definitely need to think about that. And the tempting wrong answers can come from a variety of places, such as student responses on homework and exams, things they say to you in office hours, or what other instructors think that students might say. Collaboration can be a great way to come up with great questions.

Good luck in the start of the semester! Feel free to post more questions in the comments.

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Why NOT to grade clicker questions for correctness

November 15, 2014

One thing that faculty really struggle with is whether or not, and how much, to give students credit for their clicker question answers. You want to give students some incentive to participate, but grading opens a whole can of worms. One of my faculty workshop participants explained the dilemma very astutely: “If I do not […]

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Measuring and improving students’ engagement

November 2, 2014

I’ve been working over the last year or so to better understand how to promote student buy-in to interactive techniques such as clickers and group work.  That work resulted in a set of resources on how to “frame” students’ roles in the class, especially in the first week. Now I’ve been delving deeper into this […]

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What is effective feedback? And how do clickers provide it?

October 2, 2014

Another re-post from my work on the iclicker blog. Last time I wrote about how clicker questions fit into a theoretical framework of assessment, and some considerations for aligning your clicker questions with your goals for your course. This week I want to review some of the literature on what features and kinds of feedback are most […]

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Backwards design: Where clicker questions fit into a framework of assessment

September 14, 2014

This is a repost of my work on the iclicker blog.   Lately, I’ve been thinking about the purpose and approach that we take in various forms of assessment. Today I’d like to step back into a little bit of theory-land, and consider a broader framework of assessment, and the ways that clickers fit into […]

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Using clickers in social sciences and humanities: No-one-right answer questions

September 4, 2014

This is a re-post from my work on the iclicker blog. There are lots of different types of clicker questions you can draw from (see last post for some examples), but there’s a clear distinction between two types of questions: Questions that have a right answer vs. Questions that don’t have a right answer Questions that […]

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Opening your eyes to new types of clicker questions

August 25, 2014

This is a re-post from material that I’ve shared on the iClicker Blog. One of the best things that I think you can do to get fresh ideas for clicker questions is, simply, to look at lots of different types of questions. One of the things that I have enjoyed the most about giving workshops […]

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FTEP workshops on learning goals and clickers

August 12, 2014

I am giving a set of three workshops on learning goals and clickers at the University of Colorado; here are the slides and handouts for participants to download.  Please let me know if you have any problems with these or are looking for something that’s not here.  (I gave a similar set of workshops at […]

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Spreading reform – beyond development and dissemination (Raina Katri, #aaptsm14)

August 11, 2014

I’m catching up on some blog posts from the AAPT meeting.   I have to say, it’s nice to blog again, and I hope to make some time for it in the future! Writing a grant?   One effort that I wanted to make sure that more people know about is the Increase the Impact project […]

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Lessons learned from 8 years of institutional transformation (#aaptsm14)

August 7, 2014

I was so busy blogging about everybody else’s presentations that I haven’t had a chance to write about my own talk at AAPT!  I’ve been working madly for the past few months to pull together a monstrosity of data on the outcomes and lessons learned from our work in the Science Education Initiative at the University […]

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Plenary at #perc2014: Carl Wieman and the future of PER

August 1, 2014

My mentor Carl Wieman was called upon to synthesize some of the main themes of the physics education research conference (PERC) this year.  Here are some of the things he discussed.  Note, he had a hard job, to try to draw some meaning from a lively conference with a short preparation time! Talking to some of […]

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Apples vs Oranges: MOOCs vs Brick-and-Mortar course (Mike Dubson #aaptsm14 #perc2014)

July 30, 2014

The PERC bridging session was kicked off by my colleague Mike Dubson, regarding an experiment we ran at Colorado with a MOOC vs traditional university courses. MOOCs have been hailed as revolutionary educational technology. What other revolutionary technologies have affected education? The printing press, the gasoline engine (allowing us to eliminate one-room schoolhouses). But there […]

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Peer Instruction and Student Preparation (#AAPTsm14)

July 29, 2014

I write a lot about the effective use of clickers and peer instruction, so I was excited at AAPT to see a talk with some interesting results on this educational technique.  Judy Vondruska (South Dakota State University) spoke about the “Influence of previous subject experience on interactions during peer instruction.”  She was using clickers like […]

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The gap between knowledge and practice (#AAPTsm14)

July 28, 2014

I’m at the American Association of Physics Teachers conference this week, and will be liveblogging from a few sessions. One my main interests is in how to support successful uptake of innovative educational techniques.  My talk on Wednesday will focus on some of the outcomes from the Science Education Initiative at Colorado, and lessons learned […]

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“Because the research tells me so”: Best practices in facilitating peer instruction

June 14, 2014

This is another repost from an article I wrote on the great i>clicker blog. — As a follow-up to last month’s post, on research showing that peer discussion helps students learn I’d like to share a variety of the messages that are coming out of the research on clickers and peer instruction – with particularly pertinent implications […]

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Do students learn by talking to each other?

May 30, 2014

Here is another re-post from an article I wrote on the i>clicker blog. —- This month I’d like to highlight a study which I think is crucially important in cementing the value behind peer instruction. It’s not new work anymore, but it so elegantly answers a key question – “do students learn by talking to […]

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New videos on undergraduate biology instruction

May 20, 2014

I’m happy to share the news about a new set of Creative Commons videos on undergraduate instruction — the Scientific Teaching series from iBiology:  These videos are all Creative Commons licensed so you can use them in your workshops, etc.  They have a newsletter you can sign up on to find out about new releases, […]

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How can you make a “good” clicker question GREAT?

May 16, 2014

This is another re-post of a blog post at the i>clicker blog. —- Sometimes we can be lucky enough to have access to a great set of clicker questions (see, for example, the list at But often a good set of questions for our course doesn’t exist, or another instructor’s questions don’t quite fit. Or, […]

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Getting students on-board with clickers and peer discussion

May 2, 2014

I have been blogging recently for the i>clicker blog (which has a lot of great articles on clicker use).  With their permission, I am reposting some of my articles here. —- I work a lot with faculty who are considering using clickers and peer instruction. Many faculty confide in me that they are concerned that students […]

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