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2015 Podcast: 2-Minute Teaching: Research

'Clickers' as Catalysts for Transformation of Teaching

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Podcast Text: Lecture based courses are often characterized by a lack of student engagement, participation, and higher-level thinking. Personal response systems, often known as “clickers,” are one way of creating a more student-centered classroom. Clickers are handheld remote devices that students can use to respond to instructor questions. Histograms are immediately formed with response choices. However, effective use of clickers requires thoughtful integration. The question presents itself: to click, or not to click?

Researchers from Hebrew University and Northwestern University interviewed three instructors in STEM domains at a research-intensive university. They examined different methods of clicker utilization, and questioning styles, within a variety of course structures and pedagogical practices.

Through interviews, researchers found that clickers facilitated communication to the instructor as well as among students. The instructor is better able to monitor student learning, and can identify and address misconceptions. The anonymity of clickers encourages class participation, and once a comfort zone is achieved, instructors can gradually begin to increase cooperative learning and discussion. Finally, personal response systems, when combined with student discussion, allowed for more challenging and higher-level questioning with measurable response rates.

However, the authors also indicate that the incorporation of clickers is not always straightforward, and much attention must be paid to gradually adapting the course to meet student needs. In the words of the authors, “‘clickers’ can be a catalyst for transformation of a learning environment from one of silence to one rich in dialogue and interaction.” This study was published in College Teaching in 2010.

The results suggest that although incorporating clickers can be a challenging process, the feedback gained can transform the instructor’s approaches toward a more informed and student-centered pedagogy.


Reference(s): Kolikant, Y. B., Drane, D., & Calkins, S. (2010). “Clickers” as catalysts for transformation of teachers. College Teaching, 58(1), 127-135       (download)

Bibliography: Bransford, J., S. Brophy,&S.Williams. 2000. When computer technologies meet the learning sciences: Issues and opportunities. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 21(1): 59–84.

Duncan, D. 2005. Clickers in the classroom: How to enhance science teaching using classroom response systems. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education/Addison-Wesley/Benjamin Cummings.

Immerwahr, J. 2009. Engaging the “Thumb” generationwith clickers. Teaching Philosophy 32(3):233–245.

Mayer, R. E.,A. Stull, K. DeLeeuw, K. Almeroth, B.Bimber, D. Chun,, et al. 2009. Clickers in college classrooms: Fostering learning with questioning methods in large lecture classes. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34:51–57.

Yourstone, S. A., H. S. Kraye, & G. Albaum. 2008. Classroom questioning with immediate electronic response: Do clickers improve learning? Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education 6(1): 75–
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