Tips for effective use

Support for instructors

As with any type of instructional technology, realizing the potential benefits of iClickers depends on how they are implemented. The following section outlines seven quick tips for getting the most out of this useful tool.

Explain to students why you are using iClickers

Sometimes students assume iClickers are there simply to track their attendance and force them to come to class. One way to help students get on board with using iClickers is by explaining how iClickers are expected to contribute to learning in the course as well as how you expect them to use iClickers to achieve these results.  One example of in-class explanation is available in this video.

Ask challenging and meaningful questions

iClicker questions carry great impact for learning when they move beyond ‘testing’ recall of information and facts to stimulate discussion. Instead of asking lots of questions you expect students to answer correctly, try generating questions about challenging concepts and frame questions in ways where there are multiple plausible answers.

Visual representation of simple vs challenging questions

Choose the right questions

Think about what you are hoping students will learn or achieve in the class and tailor your questions to these specific goals. For example, if students are expected to learn to apply concepts to a certain situation, then create questions that drive towards this objective. Consider what kind of knowledge is needed (e.g. factual, conceptual, procedural metacognitive) and how students are being asked to think about it (e.g., remember, apply, create, etc).

Pace your use of iClicker questions

There is no hard and fast rule about how many questions to ask. Too many questions can be tedious for students, but too few can make students wonder why iClickers are needed for the course at all. A good rule of thumb is 5-6 questions in a 50 minute lecture or 1 clicker question every 10-15 minutes as attention starts to wander. In reality, the optimal number of iClicker questions will depend on why you are using iClickers. If questions are challenging and involve multiple cycles of discussion, you may ask a select few. If the class is dedicated to an exam review session, you may ask more.

Give students time to answer

When integrating iClicker questions into a lecture, build in time for students to read what you have asked and think about the answer. Depending on the question, 30-60 seconds if often enough. If students are discussing questions in groups, it’s a good idea to leave 1 minute per group member to that each person has a chance to participate. This means you may have to reduce or reorganize the material you usually cover to avoid running out of time.

Take opportunities to emphasize learning over correctness

iClickers are fantastic for giving students a ‘safe’ way to tackle difficult or ill-defined problems. When asking these types of questions, emphasize to students that it’s okay to be unsure - questions are being used as a jumping off point for discussion rather than a way to test or evaluate them. Also, take your time before revealing the answer. Discussing conditions or assumptions under which different responses could or would have been correct can help students understand both the correct answer as well as why it is correct.

Create peer interaction

Use iClickers to create chances for students to discuss, debate, and explain concepts to each other. This type of peer interaction can be a powerful way to enhance learning during lecture time. For example, have students individually answer the question, display the responses, allow them to discuss in groups, and answer the question again.