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Using a Classroom Response System (clickers) and concept questions to assess student understanding during class

Name: Michael Bridges
Scope: 85-251- Personality, Psychology Department, H&SS large lecture class
Assessment Tool: Concept Questions and Classroom Response System

Motivation/Purpose:

What factors/data/circumstances initiated the action?

I have taught the Personality course several times and I have found it challenging to predict which concepts each new class will find difficult to understand. So I wanted to find a way to assess their understanding of key concepts in real time so I could teach more effectively. I also wanted to find a way to more actively engage students during the lecture, which is difficult to do in a large class (n=120). Finally, I wanted to track attendance in a way that wouldn’t take time from the class period.

Goal:

What did you hope to learn from the assessment?

My goal was to quickly identify concepts that students found difficult and to provide additional clarification, examples and applications for those concepts. In addition, I wanted a quick and easy way to track attendance.

Methods/Tools:

How was the data collected?

Data were collected using the H-ITT system’s acquisition program. This free, downloadable software allows the user to track all student responses to the questions that are administered during the class session.

Implementation:

How was the assessment activity carried out?

For each class lecture, conceptual questions were developed that assessed students’ understanding of key concepts. These questions were administered periodically throughout the class period.

Who were the participants?

Participants were all students enrolled in the course. Students ranged from first-years to seniors and represented all colleges across the university.

When was/will the data be collected?

Data were collected at all class meetings across the Fall 05 semester.

What is the current status:

Completed.

What was the data, how was it analyzed/interpreted?

For each question an immediate and automatic item analysis was conducted, that calculated the percentage of students selecting each response option. Data for attendance was compiled following each class and was posted on the course’s blackboard site.

Impact/Results:

How is the data being used?

There were two big consequences to using the clicker system. First, using the system allowed me to identify and address misunderstandings and misconceptions before they had a chance to solidify in students’ minds. I used the data from the distribution of correct and incorrect responses to a particular item to guide the amount of time I spent on a specific topic/concept.

Comments:

This is a good assessment technique for large lecture classes. Even though I’ve taught this course several times in the past, I was frequently not able to identify (a priori) which concepts student would find difficult. However, it did reduce the amount of predictable control that I had regarding the pace of an individual lecture because I wanted to be responsive to the needs of my students. Therefore, the amount of time that I spent on a topic and the number of examples, applications and demonstrations that I used depended heavily on the level of understanding students demonstrated in response to the clicker questions.

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