Once you feel comfortable using SRSs in your lecture in an interactive and integrated way, writing questions is one of the most important elements of using this educational technology.
Ideally, questions will motivate and assess students, revealing their level of mastery of the content and factual recall, their misconceptions and interpretations. Questions that are too easy might not only not motivate students, who tend to see them as a waste of valuable contact time, as might give them a false sense of security.
A good way of avoiding these pitfalls is to use a simple methodology that is learner centred and pedagogically focused. Keep in mind that writing effective clicker questions is different from writing exam or assignment questions. According to Beatty, good clicker questions should have a:
- Content goal
- Directly related to the course content; often have correct and incorrect answers. They might ask students to remember facts, concepts, or procedures.
- Process goal
- Exercises cognitive skills: analyse, explain, describe, etc.
- Metacognitive goal
- Learning about learning
- Critical thinking about subject matter or process
To write SRS questions, start by
- Defining your learning aims
- What do you want your students to be able to do (factual recall, content assimilation, skill development, etc.)?
- Defining the goal for the question
- Promote discussion, raise awareness, stimulate cognitive process, etc.
- Choosing the appropriate type of question (see Question Design Goals and Tactics, under Tactics)
Here is one example of this methodology in practice:
- Learning aim
Interpret legal problem. Identify correct solution. Articulate point of view.
- Skill: apply legislation to real-world scenario.
- Goal of the SRS question
Promote articulation and discussion; stimulate cognitive process.
Qualitative question; analysis and reasoning, interpret representations.
Based on the facts of problem 7 (in the students' textbook), in the lawsuit by the student against Mountain Law School, a court will likely find in favor of the:
a) student, if the court finds that the terms of the catalogue are complete, definite and certain.
b) student, since catalogues are usually considered ads, and ads are always offers
c) law school, since catalogues can never include the necessary terms to be deemed definite and complete offers.
d) law school, since the student could not have expected to be taught all the terms included in the catalogue.
adapted from Bruff, D. Teaching with Classroom Response Systems
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Instructions for students
Research says that the majority of students like using SRSs, especially when the aims are explained and they understand the value of using this technology in lecture. The negative feedback raises interesting questions and the need to explain the value of SRSs and of using valuable contact time in lecture.
Below is a summary of what the literature says on students' opinions on SRS use:
|The good ( 70% to 88%)||The bad - a minority:|
• The students who particularly reported the benefits of the SRS were those who had difficulty learning in the traditional lecture format: those who struggled to remain engaged or devote attention to the material being delivered
• Students like immediate feedback
• Students see lecturers who use SRSs as more aware of their learning needs
• They like anonymity, comparing their answer with the cohort’s; collaborating and discussing with colleagues
• Perception of ‘dumbing down’ and wasting time
• “Our research also confirmed that the use of SRSs is not universally endorsed by students, some of whom felt that the time could have been better spent delivering a larger amount of content – a sentiment that is now new (Van Dijk, Van den Berg and Van Keulen2001)
• (…) students who thought SRS a waste of time were precisely those who wanted more coverage of content and would probably fare well no matter the pedagogy or delivery method.
• Dislike technical problems
• Dislike when SRS are used to monitor attendance
• Dislike using SRSs when they don't know the learning value of questions
• If linked with assessment, grades need to be fair, clear and the SRS use robust
An effective way of communicating the advantages of SRS use in lecture, is to highlight its advantages:
- The time spent using the SRS is compensated by the depth of understanding of the material
- Time might be made up with a balanced use of study time
- Immediate feedback is available
- As it can be anonymous, it is a safe environment to give answers
- It promotes the development of different skills that go beyond content assimilation: the ability to express ideas, negotiate, dean, collaborate, etc.
On the technical side, clear instructions for how to vote are essential. If you are using TurningPoint clickers or Poll Everywhere, click here to read some tips on how to help your students vote.