Clickers in the Classroom: Are They Worth It?

Clickers in the Classroom: Are They Worth It?

Classroom remote devices. Smartphones connected to education apps. As clicker technology becomes more widely available, teachers’ use of clickers (devices that can collect student responses in real-time) is becoming increasingly common in both K-12 and university classrooms. While teachers use clickers across a range of subjects, authors Cui Liu et al. argue that there are common themes when it comes to the effectiveness of those clickers on student learning.

For their paper, “The Effects of Clickers with Different Teaching Strategies,” Cui Liu et al. analyzed 128 peer-reviewed articles about the use of clickers in the classroom to gain a better understanding of the types of teaching methods (using clickers) that produced positive outcomes on student learning. The authors note that thus far the majority of research on clickers has been conducted in college classrooms. The 128 papers chosen for their literature review reflect that high number, with 113 of the studies taking place in college classrooms, 6 at the secondary level, 2 at the elementary school and 7 in other types of education environments (607).

The Findings:

Clicker Use During Lectures:

“Clickers are commonly used with lectures. However, the integration of clickers alone into lectures yields trivial effects, if any, on learning outcomes” (618).

  • There is no clear positive effect of student clicker use during lectures on student learning or achievement (609).
    • E.g. Students may be asked to independently respond to questions about an assigned text or about the lecture being given.
  • The authors remark that in lecture-based lessons, “neither did remote clickers or mobile devices create a significant difference in achievement” (609).
  • A common teaching method for incorporating clickers into lecture-based lessons was to pose questions that students were to answer via clickers.
    • In two studies, K. Anthis found that using clickers with the above method (1) was “negatively associated with the students’ examination performance” and (2) did not produce results that differed from having students simply raise their hands to answer posed questions (613).

Clicker Use During Collaborative Lessons:

  • There is a clear and positive link between student clicker use during lessons with peer collaboration and student engagement, participation, and learning (613).
    • Collaboration here refers to having students discuss with classmates answers to complex questions before and/or after submitting answers via clickers.

“By using clickers, the students perceived that their answers and opinions were taken into account by the teacher and their peers and understood better that this process helps them improve their learning performance” (614).

  • Research has shown an increase in students’ problem solving abilities when teachers first lecture and then: (1) ask students complex questions, (2) allow the students to think and solve problems independently, (3) then show the histogram of class responses, and (4) have students explain and discuss their answers with peers before correct answers to problems were shown (617).
  • Clicker use during collaborative lessons may increase students’ critical thinking: “Specifically, if combined with productive discussion of the underlying reasons for choosing a response, students may think critically and develop empathy for alternative perspectives” (617).

General Findings:

  • Displaying real-time whole class responses were not recommended. Studies found that non-display groups scored better on post-tests (614).
  • 83.1% of surveyed students reported that using clickers increased their participation in class (615).
  • Students appreciate the interactivity with peer and with the teacher that comes from using clickers in the classroom (615).

“[S]tudents believed that having the system made the class better and encouraged participation…and they had a pleasant experience in the process of learning” (615).

  • 95% of surveyed students reported that using clickers helped them pay attention in class (616).
  • Roughly 83% of students reported that the use of clickers in class motivated them to attend (616).

Paper Title:  The Effects of Clickers with Different Teaching Strategies

Authors: Cui Liu (Jiangsu Normal University, China), Sufen Chen, Chi Chi, Kuei-Pin Chien, Yuzhen Liu, and Te-Lien Chou (National Taiwan University of Science and Technology)

Full Paper: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0735633116674213

Published: Journal of Educational Computing Research, Vol. 55, No. 5, 2017, Pages 603-628


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