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Learning to operate the technology is the easiest part of become facile with CRS-based instruction. More difficult challenges include creating and adapting suitable questions, cultivating productive classroom discourse, and integrating CRS use with the rest of the course, with curricular materials, and with external constraints.

Beatty, 2006 

  There are many advantages to using Student Response Systems, such as Poll Everywhere, as they allow you to:

  • Refresh previous knowledge at beginning of lecture
  • Focus students' attention on important ideas
  • Promote interaction between students and between the students and the lecturer
  • Evaluate factual knowledge
  • Evaluate conceptual understanding
  • Reveal student misunderstandings
  • Assess students' ability to apply lecture material to a new situation
  • Take a snapshot of students' understanding and difficulties
  • It might also have a positive impact on attendance, engagement, promote greater student participation (cognitive reasons and affect) and even achievement.

However, there are also some challenges, namely in feeling comfortable with a more active learning approach to lecturing, writing questions that are at the right level of difficulty, engaging the whole group, promoting discussion and focusing on important concepts.  

Have a look below to determine what kind of use you make of student response systems, and explore some ideas that might allow you to develop your SRS practice.

titleDr Byki Huntjens, a lecturer in Optometry at City University, explains how she has been using clickers

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PanelThese stages are not fixed and you might use elements from all of them, depending on the available time, learning aims, student needs, etc. However, research states that SRS use is more effective when the questions are aligned with the learning aim, students are independent learners and there is a large element of collaboration.

titleWhich SRS user are you?

Stage 1
  • Asking simple, factual questions about material just covered in lecture.
  • Little or no discussion between students to answer the questions, and there is little of no follow up discussion after they answer.
  • The primary aims are to improve attendance and engagement, by breaking up the delivery of content.
Stage 2
  • Asking more challenging, conceptual questions that require discussion to answer and discussion after.
  • Follow up questions asked
Stage 3
  • The lecture, or moments in the lecture, are flipped and students prepare for them in their own time.
  • Students are organised into groups and have assigned tasks.
  • The questions are challenging and demand discussion to answer them.
  • SRSs are used frequently

We recommend the following approach for using student response systems:

titleWe recommend
  1. Question

    1. Focuses students attention on important facts or concepts.
    2. Consider not displaying the options immediately, if using a multiple choice question. This might lead students to check their notes and connect the question to previously learned material, rather than eliminating options.
    3. Base the distractors on common misconceptions.
    4. See Writing effective questions for more information.

  2. Individual answer

    1. Individual answers are good, especially at the beginning of term, or in situations that simulate formal assessment. 
    2. Answering individually encourages students to think about the question and develop their own ideas, or apply knowledge to a new situation.
    3. Consider not revealing the correct answer after the individual vote, if you want students to then work as a group.
    4. Individual answers provide you with feedback on students' understanding and misconceptions

  3. Peer discussion and group answer

    1. It improve students' understanding and their ability to communicate ideas.
    2. Promote a greater confidence in the option chosen, especially if students were asked to, individually, come to an answer before they start working as a group.
    3. Brings the many benefits of peer work: expressing doubts and misconceptions, asking for help, generating discussions using technical terminology, expressing their ideas, etc.
    4. The main benefit is not only arriving to the correct answer, but also to understand why that is the correct answer.

  4. Whole class discussion

    1. Allows the group to hear different answers and points of view.
    2. Allows them to ask following questions to other students 
    3. Allows you to give feedback to the whole group, explaining why the option is correct and why the others aren't.

Of course these parts of the approach depend on time, objectives and other conditions. Below are some examples of when and how you can use SRSs, depending on your learning aims, the activities you want to use and your goals. 

titleExamples of SRS use

The table below shows some "recipes" for SRS use, with potential objectives that can be met and advantages in the Notes column.

Beginning of the lectureQuestion+ Individual answer + FeedbackRecall previously covered materials, or developed skills
Throughout the lectureQuestion+ Individual answer + Feedback

Evaluate factual knowledge/conceptual understanding/ Reveal student misunderstandings

Throughout the lectureInstruction + Question + Individual answer (no feedback) + Collaborative discussion and answer + Whole-class discussion + FeedbackAllows students to assimilate the subject matter, test their understanding and articulate it in a group.
Throughout the lecture (Flipped learning)Question + Collaborative work and answer + Feedback + Lecturer observations/Mini-lectureMore learner-centered; goes beyond recalling and practice of acquired skill.
End of the lectureQuestion + Individual answer + Feedback

Evaluate factual knowledge, evaluate conceptual understanding, reveal student misunderstandings. Gives a snapshot of content that might have to be covered in students' own time, or in following lectures.