First Week of Class

This is the first week of class at a lot of colleges and universities, so I thought it would be interesting to hear how instructors use clickers during the first couple of weeks of class.  I’ll share a clicker question I used recently, and I’ll invite you to add your own ideas in the comments area.  I’m sure there are plenty of creative ideas out there!

Last spring, after my statistics students completed their first homework assignment, I asked them the following question: “Approximately how many hours did you spend on this week’s problem set?”  I used my classroom response system’s free-response tool to let the students answer any way they liked.

Most of my students indicated they spent between one and four hours on the problem set, but seven of the students said they spent five hours on the homework.  Since I shared the distribution of answers with the students, these seven students could see that they took longer than their peers to finish the problem set.  I encouraged these students to come talk to me about how they were approaching their homework, and a couple of them took me up on that offer.

One student said that he or she took 444 hours to complete the problem set, but I’m thinking that was a typo!

The use of the classroom response system was important here in a couple of ways.  One, it’s unlikely that students would have felt comfortable using a show of hands to communicate how long the problem set took.  The students who took longer than their peers would have likely felt particularly uncomfortable.  The anonymity of the clickers helped generate more honest responses and prevented students from feeling embarrassed in front of their peers.

Two, the classroom response system allowed me to display the distribution of responses to the students.  This allowed all the students to get a sense of where they stood relative to their classmates.  Students could use this information along with their grades on the problem set to calibrate how they approached working on problem sets in my class.

So what kind of clicker questions do you ask on the first day or in the first couple of weeks of class to get your students off to a good start?

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