Clickers in Small Political Science Courses

It was @RogerFreedman who pointed me (via Twitter) to this short essay about the use of clickers in small political science classes.  In the essay, University of Denver political science professor Tom Knecht shares several reasons why he uses clickers in his small (15-25 student) classes.  Knecht echoes many of the reasons I provided for using clickers in a recent post, so, as LeVar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

  • Knecht uses clickers for formative assessment, gauging his students’ understanding of points he makes during his lectures.  He finds that his students are often hesitant to ask questions when they don’t understand something, so clickers help him discover what’s unclear.
  • He also uses clickers for graded quizzes, motivating his students to prepare for class.  Clickers allow him to distribute these quiz questions throughout a class session, instead of clustering them at the beginning or end of class on a paper quiz.
  • He also finds that the fact that students’ responses are anonymous (as far as their peers are concerned) motivates his students to engage more fully in classwide discussions, particularly around questions on sensitive topics.  (These kinds of topics can arise frequently in political science courses.)  Since all students are asked to respond to his clicker questions, they are all more prepared to engage in the discussion that follows, which enhances that discussion.

Political science courses, like others in the social sciences, often involve questions that have correct and incorrect answers, critical-thinking questions that have multiple defensible answers, and student opinion questions.  As a result, clickers are great tools for these courses, as we see here.

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