Where can I get good clicker questions?

by Stephanie Chasteen on November 7, 2011

I give a lot of workshops on the use of clickers and peer instruction to improve student engagement and deep learning.  I just found out about one more useful place to get good question items.

Quick background information — I promote the use of clickers to help facilitate getting students to discuss and argue through difficult conceptual questions as a way to learn and engage with the content more deeply.  We have a website devoted to clicker resources, including useful literature and question banks, as well as videos showing how it works in the classroom. Here’s one of those videos:
One of the things that instructors ask me is about where to get good questions.  I point them to the clicker resource page that I mention above, and I also give them a handout on Bloom’s Taxonomy that I use all the time.  Got a fact-based question and want to make it deeper?  That handout has lots of handy verbs to get you started in writing different kinds of clicker questions.  Note that you can download all my workshop materials for teaching about clicker use on our new handy-dandy website cataloging those.  Please just give attribution!

So, I was just pointed towards one more particularly handy resource for writing questions based on common student difficulties — the AAAS Science Assessment page (tip o’ the hat to Marc Kossover).  They’ve got assessments in life science, physical science, earth science and nature of science.  He says:

Ever wonder what your students (or you) know before you teach a topic? This site is for you. It includes thousands of carefully worded and illustrated questions organized into topics and subtopics that will let you put together solid diagnostics. Of course, they give the answers, but they also connect some of the wrong answers to particular misconceptions so you know where to focus.

They also show how many people chose each answer and some demographic data.

The questions aren’t super secure, so I wouldn’t use them for take home materials. Still, super cool.

Just looking through it, it seems that this would be great for middle school through intro college.  Lots of high schoolers come out with misconceptions about these ideas, so pinging your intro college crowd with them when starting a topic will be useful formative assessment.

For example, under Physical Science, if I click on Force and Motion and choose the topic, “A force is a push or a pull between two objects,” I can then choose to explore sub-topics, student performance, or misconceptions.  For example, only 21% of high school students correctly answer that when an object is shoved, it does not acquire that force (ie., that the force only lasts as long as the object is being shoved).  If I click on the item number, it gives me a multiple choice question that was used to assess hit (BINGO!  A great clicker question!), and I can click to add it to my question bank.   So, you can end up with a nice little set of useful questions by the time you finish exploring the site.

How useful is THAT!?

{ 1 comment }

Jeff March 8, 2012 at 12:16 am

Thanks for this nice roundup. I find myself preparing to talk with other faculty on the subject of writing good clicker questions for the first time. I plan to take you up on your offer to use your workshop materials and I promise to give attribution early and often!

Much obliged!

Jeff (at Metropolitan State College of Denver)

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