E. Partosoedarso, L. Robertson

University of Ontario Institute of Technology (CANADA)
This study investigates the impact of clickers in a first year health science course. This course is typical of first year courses, in that it is an introductory subject taught in a large class with over 100 students enrolled. As most instructors responsible for large undergraduate classes have little training in teaching and learning (Cranton & King, 2003), they can often revert to teaching these classes using the same lecture “sage on a stage” methodology that was used in their own undergraduate education (Herreid, 1998). This transmission style of curriculum interaction involves a unilateral transfer of information, skills and knowledge from the instructor to the student (Miller & Seller, 1990).

Clickers (also known as audience response systems or classroom communication systems) were used to enhance the teaching and learning process in the large undergraduate class. Common issues associated with large classes include noise and distraction from other students, feelings of anonymity and lessened individual responsibilities (Wulff, Nyquist, & Abbott, 1987). Clickers were used to address these issues as a transformative technology to provide an active learning strategy for the students. This transformative process required a thorough understanding of the technology, the course curriculum and a solid pedagogy which is embodied in the TPaCK (technological, pedagogical and content knowledge) framework (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

Clickers were used regularly during every class for twelve weeks. Virtual clickers were used in this study as part of a university pilot program. When the response to a clicker question was not unanimous, students were asked to be involved in cooperative learning by justifying their clicker answer choice to a small informal group of students around them. The instructor gave a short explanation of the rationale for each answer choice being either correct of incorrect. At the end of the term, students were asked to complete a self-survey exploring their attitudes and perceptions of using clickers in the class.

Students reported that they were more engaged, participated more and liked knowing how the class answered. Data from the survey also showed that students thought that clickers were a good way to test their knowledge and led to more discussion being generated. According to the survey, the increase in interactions led to a better conceptual understanding of the material.

By encouraging interactions and feedback, clickers, in conjunction with cooperative learning, conforms to the best practises established by Chickering and Gamson (1987). The use of clickers was transformative in altering both teaching and learning processes such that there was an increased interaction between and feedback to both students and instructor.

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987) American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, , 3-7.
Cranton, P., & King, K. P. (2003) New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 98, 31-37.
Herreid, C. F. (1998). BioScience, 48(7), 553-559.
Miller, J. P., & Seller, W. (1990). Curriculum: Perspectives and practice.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006) Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.
Wulff, D. H., Nyquist, J. D., & Abbott, R. D. (1987) New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 32, 17-30.