Novice or Veteran?

My session on supporting faculty teaching with clickers at the POD Network conference last week went very well.  In one of the session activities, I provided participants with a list of common and uncommon uses of clickers and asked them to indicate whether each use is more likely to be implemented by an instructor new to using clickers (“novices”) or more likely only to be implemented by an instructor with some experience teaching with clickers (“veterans”).  I then polled the session participants using a few clicker questions.

You can download a copy of this handout from my session’s page on WikiPODia, but I thought I would share the results of some of the polling questions here.


As you can see, most of the session participants thought that taking attendance is something that those new to using clickers are likely to do.  I should clarify that this doesn’t mean that veterans don’t do this, just that it’s not something that only veterans would do.  One participant who said that only veterans would take attendance with clickers indicated that it takes a veteran to figure out how to link clicker responses to student rolls in the system she uses!


When it comes to using clickers to administer and grade quizzes, the participants were split.  (Check the percentages above, not the sizes of the bars in the chart.)  I think some instructors new to clickers see clickers as a way to make quizzes easier and faster to implement.  However, unless a clicker quiz is reviewed with the students immediately after it’s administered, using clickers to administer the quiz doesn’t really add value to the students’ learning experience, it just makes the instructor’s life easier.

Why might this use of clickers be something that only more veteran clicker users implement?  One answer is that instructors who find out about clickers from people like Eric Mazur (and me, for that matter) often see value in the use of clickers for informal assessment and agile teaching during class.  Adopters who lead with the peer instruction method of using clickers are less likely to use clickers for formal, graded quizzes.


On the other hand, using clickers to facilitate peer instruction is something that my session participants felt was more the province of experienced clicker users.  Sure, some instructors will start using clickers in this way, influenced by people like Eric Mazur and me.  However, one session participant said that instructors not used to having students discuss during class might find this use of clickers a little too different to implement when just getting started with clickers.

I’ll admit I was surprised by the results of this question.  I hear from a lot of instructors who like this use of clickers.  What do you think?  Is using clickers to facilitate peer instruction and small-group discussion something that those new to using clickers typically do?  Or is it more of an “advanced” use of clickers?

I’ve got a few more results slides to share with you in a later blog post, so stay tuned.

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