I picked up a few ideas on teaching with classroom response systems at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Washington, DC, last week. Rick Clearly of Bently University spoke about test construction as part of a panel on creative assessment of student learning. He didn’t mention clickers at all, but he described two kinds of exam questions he uses that are similar to clicker questions I’ve heard other faculty describe.
Dr. Clearly sometimes asks his students to circle responses to multiple-choice and true-false exam questions in which they are confident. Circled responses get +3 points when correct, but -1 points when incorrect. Responses that aren’t circled get +2 points when correct, but earn 0 points when incorrect.
I’ve spoken with instructors who use similar schemes for in-class clicker questions, having students rate their confidence level (high, medium, low) in their answers to content questions. Some instructors modify the amount of points students earn based on their confidence level as Rick does on his exam questions.
I’m not sure how I feel about assigning exam points in this way, but for instructors using confidence-level clicker questions, there’s something to be said about using exam questions that align well with in-class clicker questions. This means that clicker questions help students prepare for exams, which students generally appreciate according to surveys. Also, if an instructor has a particular learning goal, it’s only appropriate that this class time be spent helping students move toward that goal and exams be used to assess the extent to which the goal has been met by students.
As another example, Dr. Clearly mentioned that on his exams, he sometimes presents a worked problem to his students, asking them to determine if the solution is correct. This is a great idea for an exam questions, since it allows Dr. Clearly to assess his students’ problem-solving skills (particularly their error-detection skills) without requiring students to spend a lot of exam time working through a complete problem on their own. This kind of question also works well as an in-class clicker question. On the exam, an instructor might ask students to write why the sample solution is incorrect. In class, those arguments could come out in the discussion.