Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

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


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.


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.


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.


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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