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.
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:

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tswarelo October 11, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Nice..# keeps a geek’s mind going!

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