Using a Clicker System and Concept Questions to Assess Student Understanding During Class -Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Instructor: Michael Bridges
Course: 85-251: Personality, Psychology Department, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Assessment: Using a Clicker System and Concept Questions to Assess Student Understanding During Class

Purpose:

I have taught this large lecture course several times, and it is challenging to predict which concepts each class will find difficult to understand. I wanted to assess students’ understanding of key concepts in real time so I could provide additional clarification, examples, and applications for those concepts when needed. I also wanted to engage students more actively during the lecture. Finally, I wanted to track attendance without using class time.

Implementation:

I used the H-ITT system’s acquisition program because its free, downloadable software allows the user to track all student responses to questions administered during a class period. For each class lecture, I developed multiple-choice questions that assessed students’ understanding of key concepts. I administered these questions throughout the class period. Whenever I administered a question, an immediate and automatic item analysis calculated the percentage of students selecting each response. Attendance data was compiled after each class and was posted on the course’s Blackboard site. I used the clicker system for every class period during the Fall 2005 semester.

Results:

Using the system allowed me to identify and address misunderstandings and misconceptions before they solidified in students’ minds. It also helped to guide the amount of time I spent covering a particular topic or concept.

Comments:

This is a helpful assessment technique for large lecture classes. I was able to identify the concepts that students had difficulty with more easily. However, it did reduce my control over the pace of an individual lecture because I wanted to be responsive to my students’ needs. 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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