Activity Ideas for iClicker

Teaching with iClickers can take a number of directions. You will want to match activities to course content, time constraints, learning objectives, and your and your students’ unique teaching and learning styles. Some possibilities for iClicker activities include the following, listed more or less in order of increasing levels of student engagement.

  • Attendance: Clickers can be used to take attendance directly (e.g. asking students to respond to the question “Are you here today?”) or indirectly by determining which students used their clickers during class.
  • Summative Assessment: Clickers can be used for graded activities, such as multiple-choice quizzes or even tests. Some brands of clickers allow for a “student-paced” mode in which students answer questions on a printed test at their own pace.
  • Formative Assessment: Clickers can be used to pose questions to students and collect their answers for the purpose of providing real-time information about student learning to both the instructor and the students. Students can use this feedback to monitor their own learning, and instructors can use it to change how they manage class “on the fly” in response to student learning needs. Some brands of clickers allow students to register their confidence level (high, medium, or low) along with their answer, providing more detailed feedback to the instructor.Some instructors assign participation grades to these kinds of formative assessments to encourage students to participate. Other instructors assign points for correct answers to encourage students to take these questions more seriously. Other instructors do a mix of both, assigning partial credit for wrong answers.
  • Homework Collection: Some brands of clickers allow students to record their answers to multiple-choice or free response homework questions outside of class and submit their answers via the clickers at the start of class.
  • Discussion Warm-Up: Posing a question, giving students time to think about it and record their answers via clickers, and then displaying the results can be an effective way to warm a class up for a class-wide discussion. Compared with the approach of taking the first hand that is raised after a question is asked, this approach gives all students time to think about and commit to an answer, setting the stage for greater discussion participation.
  • Contingent Teaching: Since it can occasionally be challenging to determine what students understand and what they do not understand, clickers can be used to gauge that in real-time during class and modify one’s lesson plan accordingly. If the clicker data show that students understand a given topic, then the instructor can move on to the next one. If not, then more time can be spent on the topic, perhaps involving more lecture, class discussion, or another clicker question.
  • Peer Instruction: The teacher poses a question to his or her students. The students ponder the question silently and transmit their individual answers using the clickers. The teacher checks the histogram of student responses. If significant numbers of students choose the wrong answer, the teacher instructs the students to discuss the question with their neighbor. After a few minutes of discussion, the students submit their answers again. This technique often (but not always!) results in more students choosing the correct answer as a result of the peer instruction phase of the activity. This is a fairly simple way to use clickers to engage a large number of students in discussions about course material. This approach can also set the stage for a class-wide discussion that more fully engages all students. See Mazur  for more on this approach.
  • Repeated Questions: In the peer instruction approach described above, students respond to a given question twice–once after thinking about their answer individually and again after discussing it with their neighbor. Some instructors ask the same question several times, with different activities in between rounds of voting designed to help students better answer the question. For instance, an instructor might have the students answer the question individually, then discuss it with their neighbor and respond, then participate in a class-wide discussion and respond, and then listen to a mini-lecture on the topic and respond. For particularly challenging questions, this can be an effective technique for helping students discover and explore course material.
  • Question-Driven Instruction: This approach combines contingent teaching and peer instruction. Lesson plans consist entirely of clicker questions. Which questions are asked depends entirely on how students answer the questions. An instructor might come into class with a stack of clicker questions, with multiple questions on each topic. As students perform well on clicker questions, the instructor moves on to questions on new topics. As students perform poorly, the instructor asks further questions on the same topic. The instructor does not have a lesson plan in the traditional sense when using this approach. Instead, the course of the class is determined reactively to demonstrated student learning needs. See Beatty  for more on this approach.
  • “Choose Your Own Adventure” Classes: In this technique, an instructor poses a problem along with several possible approaches to solving it–perhaps approaches suggested by students during class. The instructor has the students vote on which approach to pursue first, then explores that approach with the students. Afterwards, the students vote on which approach to pursue next.