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Biology - Clickers

Page history last edited by Sean Scribbick 11 years, 6 months ago


Student Response System (SRS) or the Classroom Communication System (CCS)

By Sean Scribbick and Sarah Butherus  


What is it?



The student remote personal response systems (clickers) resemble pared-down TV remote control units, and they work in the same way. Clickers use infrared or radio frequency technology to transmit and record student responses to questions. A small, portable receiving station is placed in the front of the class to collect and record student responses. Each clicker can be registered to a student (or not, depending on the teacher’s perogative) and generates a unique, identifiable signal. The system allows for active participation by all students and provides immediate feedback to the instructor—and the students—about any confusion or misunderstandings of the material being presented.


The Student Response System (SRS) is a technology based product designed to support communication and interactivity in the classroom setting. Through the use of these products, large "lecture based " classes can function similar to smaller setting classrooms.


The student response system is a technology that:


  • It allows an instructor to present a question or problem to the class
  • It allows students to enter their answers relating to the questions asked by the instructor using an organized and easy to use method
  • Instantly aggregates and summarizes the student's answers for the instructor
The student response system provides additional support for specific student active, question driven, disscussion centered pedagogy:
  • Instantly constructing a histogram of class wide answers for the instructor
  • Display histogram to students via an overhead projector
  • Manages roster and students logins (A means of taking attendence)
  • Allowing an instructor to associate individual students with their answers
  • Providing the instructor with a map of the classroom that displays the student's names and question answers by seat
  • Allowing or requirng students to answer in small groups
The student response system has a great impact in the larger classroom setting but has also shown to be beneficial in the smaller classroom setting.
How it works?
This Student Response System is a fairly simple and easy system to use. A software program is loaded on to the teachers/instructor's computer which allows the instructor to create questions and answers as well as develop class rosters which can be used during class. Once the system is loaded onto the computer an infared reciever is plugged into the computer which is able to recieve infared signals from the student's clickers. Once this signal is received the computer program organizes the data so that the teacher can look at and review the results of the student's answers. Each student is assigned a clicker with a relating number which allows the instructor to have acess to each students answers as well as the entire classroom's answers. All of this information is presented on an overhead display so that the students can see the correct answers as well as compare themselves to their peers. It really gets to class involved in the learning activity and allows a teacher to see the progress and understanding of the individual students.
Implications for teaching and learning/significance! 
Interaction and engagement are often limited by class size and human dynamics (a few students dominate the conversation; most avoid interaction). Interaction and engagement, both important learning principles, can be facilitated with clickers. But asking the right questions is more important than the technology. Poorly structured questions or ones that don’t focus on key concepts and reveal misunderstandings can undermine the value of personal response systems. Identifying misconceptions and providing frequent feedback is important. Clickers can also facilitate discipline-specific discussions, small work-group cooperation, and student-student interactions. Clickers—plus well-designed questions—provide an easy-to-implement mechanism. Clicker technology enables more effective, more efficient, and more engaging education.

Clickers represent an easy-to-adopt technology that can enhance the learning experience. For faculty, clickers are being used extensively to evaluate student mastery of content and to identify concepts that are proving difficult for students to grasp. For students, they provide a quick way to validate their own learning, helping them identify areas that need improvement. Clickers can also be used to gauge student opinion on controversial or sensitive issues. They are often used to catalyze debate and discussion, turning a passive lecture into an interactive exchange. And, significantly, students say they are fun! Clickers are easy to use and inexpensive to acquire and can be used for more than one class.


Teaching with a CRS


Types of Questions

Many instructors see multiple-choice questions as limited to testing students' recall of facts. However, multiple-choice clicker questions can actually serve many other purposes in the class, including assessing students' higher-order thinking skills. Since clicker questions can be used not only to assess students but to engage them, some very effective clicker questiosn are quite different than multiple-choice questions that might appear on exams.

Here are a few types of clicker questions.


  • Recall Questions: These questions ask students to recall facts, concepts, or techniques relevant to class. They are often used to see if students did the reading, remember important points from prior classes, or have memorized key facts. They rarely generate discussion, however, and don't require higher-order thinking skills.


  • Conceptual Understanding Questions: These questions go beyond recall and assess students' understanding of important concepts. Answer choices to these questions are often based on common student misconceptions, and so these questions work well to help instructors identify and address their students' misconceptions. Questions asking students to classify examples, match characteristics with concepts, select the best explanation for a concept, or translate among different ways of representing an idea are examples of conceptual understanding questions.


  • Application Questions: These questions require students to apply their knowledge and understanding to particular situations and contexts. Application questions often ask students to make a decision or choice in a given scenario, connect course content to "real-world" situations, implement procedures or techniques, or predict the outcome of experiments or even their peers' response to a subsequent question.


  • Critical Thinking Questions: These questions operate at the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, requiring students to analyze relationships among multiple concepts or make evaluations based on particular criteria. Often these questions are "one-best-answer questions," questions that include multiple answer choices that have merit. Students are asked to select the one best answer from these choices. One-best-answer questions aren't appropriate for exams, since the reasons students provide for or against answer choices are of more interest than their particular answer selections. However, these questions can be very effective in preparing students to engage in class discussions about their reasons.


  • Student Perspective Questions: These are questions that ask students to share their opinions, experiences, or demographic information. These questions do not have correct answers, but by surfacing the various perspectives of students in a class, they can help both instructors and students better understand those perspectives. They can often generate rich discussion, particularly questions about ethical, legal, or moral issues. They can also help students connect their personal experiences to more abstract course content. The anonymity that clickers provide is often an essential ingredient in asking these kinds of questions.


  • Confidence Level Questions: Asking students a content question, then following that by asking students to rate their confidence in their answers (high, medium, or low) can enhance the usefulness of information on student learning provided by the first question. Prompting students to assess their confidence can also aid in metacognition--learning about one's own learning. Instructors can also ask "predictive" confidence level questions by asking students how confident they are that they could correctly answer some question or accomplish some task in which they have not yet engaged.


  • Monitoring Questions: These are questions designed to provide instructors with information about how their students are approaching the learning process in their courses. For instance, one week before a paper assignment is due, instructors might ask students whether or not they have completed rough drafts as a way to gauge their progress. Asking students how long they took to complete an assignment they have just turned in can provide instructors with useful information about the difficulty of the assignment. Clicker questions can also be used to see if students remember good advice or course policies shared on a first-day-of-class course syllabus. The questions that appear on end-of-semester course evaluations also make useful monitoring questions at the midpoint of the semester.


  • Classroom Experiments: Classroom response systems can also be used to collect data from students for classroom experiments often used in the social sciences. Often data generated by students during class can be used to make points about social behavior. By allowing these data to be collected and analyed during class, clickers can bring a sense of immediacy and relevance to these kinds of experiments.


Information above taken from: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/cft/resources/teaching_resources/technology/crs.htm#teaching


Types of Activities


Teaching with a CRS can take a number of directions. Teachers will want to match activities to course content, time constraints, learning objectives, and their own teaching styles. Some possibilities for CRS activities include the following, listed more or less in order of increasing levels of student engagement.


  • Attendance: Clickers can be used to take attendance directly (e.g. asking students to respond to the question "Are you here today?") or indirectly by determining which students used their clickers during class.


  • Summative Assessment: Clickers can be used for graded activities, such as multiple-choice quizzes or even tests. Some brands of clickers allow for a "student-paced" mode in which students answer questions on a printed test at their own pace.


  • Formative Assessment: Clickers can be used to pose questions to students and collect their answers for the purpose of providing real-time information about student learning to both the instructor and the students. Students can use this feedback to monitor their own learning, and instructors can use it to change how they manage class "on the fly" in response to student learning needs. Some brands of clickers allow students to register their confidence level (high, medium, or low) along with their answer, providing more detailed feedback to the instructor.


    Some instructors assign participation grades to these kinds of formative assessments to encourage students to participate. Other instructors assign points for correct answers to encourage students to take these questions more seriously. Other instructors do a mix of both, assigning partial credit for wrong answers.


  • Homework Collection: Some brands of clickers allow students to record their answers to multiple-choice or free response homework questions outside of class and submit their answers via the clickers at the start of class.


  • Discussion Warm-Up: Posing a question, giving students time to think about it and record their answers via clickers, and then displaying the results can be an effective way to warm a class up for a class-wide discussion. Compared with the approach of taking the first hand that is raised after a question is asked, this approach gives all students time to think about and commit to an answer, setting the stage for greater discussion participation.


  • Contingent Teaching: Since it can occasionally be challenging to determine what students understand and what they do not understand, clickers can be used to gauge that in real-time during class and modify one's lesson plan accordingly. If the clicker data show that students understand a given topic, then the instructor can move on to the next one. If not, then more time can be spent on the topic, perhaps involving more lecture, class discussion, or another clicker question.


    This approach has been called "agile teaching" by Beatty et al. (2006), who write, "This contrasts with the common practice of teaching according to a 'ballistic' lesson plan: designing a plan for an entire class meeting, 'launching' the plan, hoping that it hits reasonably close to its target, and waiting for the next exam to know for certain." Certainly there are other ways to determine if students are understanding course material as one progresses through a course, but clickers can provide a convenient way of doing so. See also Draper & Brown (2004) for more on this approach.


  • Peer Instruction: The teacher poses a question to his or her students. The students ponder the question silently and transmit their individual answers using the clickers. The teacher checks the histogram of student responses. If significant numbers of students choose the wrong answer, the teacher instructs the students to discuss the question with their neighbor. After a few minutes of discussion, the students submit their answers again. This technique often (but not always!) results in more students choosing the correct answer as a result of the peer instruction phase of the activity. This is a fairly simple way to use clickers to engage a large number of students in discussions about course material. This approach can also set the stage for a class-wide discussion that more fully engages all students. See Mazur (1997) for more on this approach.


  • Repeated Questions: In the peer instruction approach described above, students respond to a given question twice--once after thinking about their answer individually and again after discussing it with their neighbor. Some instructors ask the same question several times, with different activities in between rounds of voting designed to help students better answer the question. For instance, an instructor might have the students answer the question individually, then discuss it with their neighbor and respond, then participate in a class-wide discussion and respond, and then listen to a mini-lecture on the topic and respond. For particularly challenging questions, this can be an effective technique for helping students discover and explore course material.


  • Question-Driven Instruction: This approach combines contingent teaching and peer instruction. Lesson plans consist entirely of clicker questions. Which questions are asked depends entirely on how students answer the questions. An instructor might come into class with a stack of clicker questions, with multiple questions on each topic. As students perform well on clicker questions, the instructor moves on to questions on new topics. As students perform poorly, the instructor asks further questions on the same topic. The instructor does not have a lesson plan in the traditional sense when using this approach. Instead, the course of the class is determined reactively to demonstrated student learning needs. See Beatty et al. (2006) for more on this approach.



  • Choose Your Own Adventure" Classes: In this technique, an instructor poses a problem along with several possible approaches to solving it--perhaps approaches suggested by students during class. The instructor has the students vote on which approach to pursue first, then explores that approach with the students. Afterwards, the students vote on which approach to pursue next. See Hinde and Hunt (2006) for an example of this approach.




Information above taken from :  http://www.vanderbilt.edu/cft/resources/teaching_resources/technology/crs.htm#teaching







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Links and Resources (Also websites we obtained our information from):




This information found on this website discusses the benefits of using students response system to raise student achievement.  A teacher could read about the benefits of using student response system in one of the research articles on the webpage.  There are also examples of how the response system could be incorporated into the classroom in a simple and effective way. There are many different types of students response system and this website compares each one.  This can be helpful information for a teacher because it is important to find a system that is the best fit in your classroom.




This website sells the students response systems.  This can be a helpful resource for teachers who are looking into purchasing students response systems for their own classrooms.  Found in the website are the many different products that can be purchased, the costs for each product, and also information on how to use them.




If a teacher was interested in learning more about how other schools and classrooms use students response system, they could come to the page and read the success story of one high school.  The website gives background information on the high school, the challenge they had before using student response system, the solution to the issues, and the conclusion of using student response systems in a high school. This website could help gives teacher a better idea on how to incorporate the students response system into their schools and classrooms.




This website instructs teachers on how the students response systems can be used in an effective way in the classroom.  It discusses the types of questions that are recommended being used and activities that can be done with the students response systems. There are also some videos that can be watched on the page that show how to engage students in the classroom by using the response systems.




This website shows the results of a study done to learn more about using students response systems in the K-12 classrooms.  The research questions addressed in the study were finding the purpose of the students response system technologies and what context they were being used in.  Background information, study design, and results of the study are discussed in this website.

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