Are the benefits of clickers due to the enforcement of good pedagogy?

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Enhancing Higher Education, Theory and Scholarship Vol. 30

July, 2007, 651 pages
Published by
Geoffrey Crisp & Margaret Hicks
0 908557 72 8

Over the past 20 years Personal Response Systems (clickers) have rapidly gained favour in many universities across the world. This paper, explores the pedagogy behind the technology, in order to determine quantitatively if the change in lecturing style forced by the adoption of a clicker system is responsible for the improvements in student engagement and learning as has been documented elsewhere. We report the findings of a controlled study of a first year biology course in which half the class attended lectures where clickers were used to answer question, and the other half attended lectures with questions but no clickers. We found that overall grades obtained by the two different cohorts were the same (73%), as measured by end of course examination. This figure is much higher than the previous year’s cohort (56%) whose lectures covered similar material but did not utilise embedded questions or clickers. Our study also found that student satisfaction of lecturers that used embedded questions was much higher than without this pedagogical change. However, classes that used clickers had 94.8% of students participating in answering questions with a correct response rate of 59.2%, while non-clicker classes had a participation rate of 42.1% with a correct response rate of 81.4%. From this, we conclude that while the pedagogy associated with lectures utilising embedded questions can explain many of the observed benefits experienced with the use of clickers, clickers are necessary to ensure a more honest response by students, thus providing lecturers with information to provide appropriate feedback. In addition, clickers are vital to ensuring that lecturers will adopt an ‘embedded question’ style pedagogy as without them we found a reluctance to do so, and a subsequent return to monologue-style lectures.

Keywords: student response units, pedagogy, clickers, lectures, large first year classes.

Are the benefits of clickers due to the enforcement of good pedagogy?

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Burke da Silva, K., Wood, D. & Menz, R.