Opening your eyes to new types of clicker questions

by Stephanie Chasteen on 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 on clickers and peer instruction is the opportunity to peruse so many diverse, thoughtful questions – either the exemplars that I show to my workshop participants, or the amazing ideas that they come up with during the workshops, themselves.

Through looking at lots of example questions, I’ve pulled out these different types of questions that are
often used:

  1. Conceptual “one right answer”
  2. Discussion-based “no one right answer”
  3. Predict an outcome (e.g., of an experiment)
  4. Surveys or personal opinion
  5. Embedding reasoning in the answer (e.g., in an otherwise true/false question)
  6. Using images as answer choices

I’ll give some examples of each of these below:

1. Conceptual one-right answer questions
These are the easiest to write, and most people use some form of them. These usually test facts and concepts, but I find it’s best when the questions are written around common student misunderstandings or tricky ideas, rather than just to test on the reading or comprehension. The question below, from physics, asks students to reason about the motion of a cart using the conservation of momentum.
Conceptual one-right answer questions

2. Discussion “no one right answer” questions
These are great to use in any type of class, but form more of the bread-and-butter of social sciences and humanities classes. Below is an example from Psychology, where students need to think through a particular example. The whole-class discussion of such questions typically focus on student reasons for their answers, providing an opportunity to get students engaged in debate and reasoning.
Discussion
3. Prediction questions
I love these. Anytime someone shows me a question that is a bit too much of a factual-recall question, I can usually think of a way to change it into a prediction “if…then” prediction question. Below is an example asking students to reason through the effects of buoyancy and weight.

Prediction questions
4. Surveys or personal opinion
These are another mainstay of humanities and social sciences, though often used in the natural sciences as well. These are a great way to engage students in a topic, especially at the beginning. Below is an example from a sociology class, asking students to wrestle with an issue being covered in lecture.
Surveys or personal opinions
5. Embedding reasoning in the answer
I tend to avoid true/false questions, yes/no, because there’s not that much to discuss. But these kind of binary-choice questions can be tweaked to include reasoning, as in the below example:
Embedding reasoning in the answer

6. Using images as answer choices
This is another technique that I really love, because it can help students with visual literacy skills. You can ask students questions about a photograph, diagram, graph, or other visual. Below is an example from a science discipline, asking students to apply the rather abstract idea of a unit cell (the smallest division of a grid) to a different possible unit cells.
Using images as answer choices

These are just some examples, but I encourage you to explore lots of different questions – not necessarily in your own discipline – to get more ideas of the types of things you can do.

Where you can find different questions:

More articles about writing questions:

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FTEP workshops on learning goals and clickers

by Stephanie Chasteen on 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 MTSU; these handouts should work for you too).

Thanks for being such a great group everyone, I don’t think I’ve had such an engaged and thoughtful set of participants before!

What do you want them to learn today?  Learning goals and formative assessment

Effective Facilitation of Clickers

Writing Great Clicker Questions

Other key clicker resources

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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:  http://www.ibiology.org/scientific-teaching.html.  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 STEMclickers.colorado.edu). 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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Free #clicker webinar: Facilitating Peer Instruction Effectively

January 25, 2014

I’m giving two free webinars this coming Wednesday on the use of clickers in the classroom to promote student discussion.  I’ve given a lot of these and they’ve always been very well received, come join us, it should be a good time!  Each is one hour long. 11 am PT / 2pm ET:  Recording  (I […]

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George Washington U. clicker workshop – Dec 10th

December 10, 2013

I am giving a workshop at George Washington University on the effective use of clickers, along with my wonderful colleague Stefanie Mollborn from Sociology.  This is a four-part half-day workshop, including information on facilitation, question writing, and tips for success. Do you want to learn how to use clickers – or any student voting technique […]

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Why I donated to PhET for #GivingTuesday

December 3, 2013

When I first came to CU from the Exploratorium — the premiere hands-on, “tinkering” science museum in the world — I was pretty disdainful about the idea of spending a lot of resources creating interactive simulations.  These aren’t hands-on, I thought, they’re fake, they’re missing the point.  Then I got to know the PhET simulations (http://phet.colorado.edu). […]

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PhET is looking for a K12 specialist!

October 30, 2013

I work part-time with the PhET Interactive Simulation project (http://phet.colorado.edu), which many readers are familiar with.  They have a rare position open, focusing on simulation design and use at the K12 level, and I wanted to share with you all!  Please share this announcement with others who might be interested. The online posting can be found […]

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Getting students to buy-in to non-traditional instruction

August 26, 2013

As the new semester is starting up, many of you are considering how to best promote student engagement in your course  – especially if you use non-traditional, research-based forms of instruction such as clickers, student discussion, or group work. We have a compiled set of approaches and materials, representing how instructors around the country help to […]

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PhET Simulations: Now on tablets! And a new logo!

August 21, 2013

Two big announcements from the PhET Interactive Simulations project! New!  Now for touch screens! First, PhET has been working their techie little butts off for quite a while to port their simulations over to HTML5.  No, I didn’t know what HTML5 was before this project started either.  It doesn’t really matter except that (a) it’s […]

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Clickers 101: Free webinar on Weds

August 19, 2013

Are you a college faculty member interested in clickers?  Come to our free, introductory webinar on Wednesday, 10:00 PT / 1:00 ET. To register, and for other webinars in this series, see http://bit.ly/19n2oEX (Note the session on October 30th geared towards humanities and social sciences, by my colleague Angel Hoekstra at CU Boulder). Handouts and slides […]

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