How to use clickers effectively?

Vincent Laberge, research officer at the ETS (Educational Testing Service (ETS) the world’s largest private nonprofit educational testing and assessment organization) and Eric Francoeur, a teacher at the ETS, conducted a study on the use of clickers.

Essentially, the use of clickers allows questions to be asked in various situations. The nature of the questions and their timing have different effects on student learning. Teachers who ask a lot of questions will have great ease in adapting their courses to the use of these devices. The important thing is to use the right type of question according to the objectives:

Initiation questions: question the students before they see the material to destabilize them. The responses must be recurring errors that are known.

Feedback questions: question after giving the subject to confirm that the students understand what has been taught. Asking the same question at several points in the year makes it possible to observe the evolution of the class.

Debate questions: ask an open-ended question with answer that are all philosophically defensible.

Source: Laberge, V., & Francoeur, E. (2014). Les Télévoteurs et la dynamique de classe. Université du Québec.

Here above is a diagram inspired by the Socratic method, which scripts the course in an optimal way:
1. Compose a good question.
2. Ask the question.
3. Let students reflect and respond individually.
4. Give students time to discuss with peers and then post the answers.

5. Lead the class discussion.
6. Give an example to understand the right answer.
7. Evaluate the question asked, modify according to the feedback of the students for next time.
8. End the discussion (it’s important to come back to the points to remember, lessons to be learned).
9. Reach the purpose of the session, as outlined in the lesson plan. On the pedagogical level, the use of the Socratic method requires adjustment by both the teacher and the students. Teachers must learn to guide students through the subject taught rather than to control their class. They must also learn how to compose questions appropriate to their students and to stimulate or moderate debates. Students must learn to participate, to interact, to listen to their peers rather than to remain passive and waiting for the contents taught.

Embracing interaction
An objection is often raised about the use of clickers: it is a very interesting technology, but time consuming! So, how to release the necessary time? It is possible to change the rhythm of the course by transferring part of the learning to the class, in the form, for example, of readings that the student must take before the course. This allows time for interactions in the classroom. The use of clickers and the questioning cycle accurately focus on the added value of face-to-face instruction by animating the classroom and making students think. This approach falls well within the framework of an inverted classroom, which is based on individual learning and classroom application.

Thanks to the use of clickers, the distance created between students and teachers in the large classes is diminished, since each student participates, even if only minimally, and becomes an active agent of his own learning . On the other hand, adjustments are necessary for their implementation and their manipulation, by the teacher who must own a new software tool. Teachers are a source of motivation for teachers and students as they allow for experience-based and discussion-based instruction rather than unidirectional master presentation (Laberge & Francoeur, 2014).