Active Teaching Exchange Recap: Writing Good Clicker Questions

Thu April 19, 2018

In the April 19, 2018 Active Teaching Exchange, Jeff Henriques, a 14-year clicker veteran from the Department of Psychology, shared his thoughts about the types of questions that best facilitate student comprehension and engagement with course material. Visit the presentation slides and the Exchange notes for a closer look at Jeff’s advice for maximizing clicker utility in the classroom.

Takeaways

  • Avoid concerns about dead batteries or forgotten clickers by keeping points earned low stakes. In Jeff’s class, students have to participate with their clickers in 10 of 15 classes to get full points. Another consideration is to provide options for students who don’t want to buy clickers to get equivalent points through other means. 
  • Capitalize on questions gone wrong. Even bad clicker questions can provide learning opportunities if they generate student discussion about the content.
  • Go for frequency and regularity. Jeff now uses about 120-150 clicker questions in a semester. He’s found that the more questions he uses, the more students learn.
  • Use clicker questions as an exam-prep opportunity. Include examples of the types of questions students will see, and provide in-class opportunities to examine strategies for reading and answering those questions.
  • Have students work in pairs so they can compare their understanding with their peers. Try a Think, Pair, Share approach in which students vote on a response, discuss why they voted as they did, and then vote again. If most of the students get it wrong, take responsibility.
  • Don’t rely on publisher-provided questions to spur higher-order thinking. The questions from publishers tend to focus on lower-level thinking.
  • As a warm-up, try providing only incomplete answers as response choices, then follow up by asking students how they could make the answer better. 
  • Use office hours, makeup exams, and common misunderstandings as question inspiration.
  • Most importantly, take the time to explain why the wrong answers are wrong. Clicker questions are best used as a tool for both teaching and assessment.

Video

Active Teaching Exchanges are held Thursdays from 1-2pm in room 120, Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.). Check out the upcoming Exchanges or read the recaps from past Exchanges.

Like the Active Teaching Exchanges, Active Teaching Labs feature instructors sharing their teaching experiences with tools and techniques, but also provide time for hands-on exploration of tools. Labs are are held Fridays from 8:30-9:45am in room 120, Middleton Building as well as some Wednesdays from 12:30-1:30pm in room 302 Middleton Building. See the full calendar of both events. Stay informed about upcoming Labs and Exchanges by signing up for regular announcements by sending an email to join-activeteaching@lists.wisc.edu.