Just over a year ago, I shared a story here about a clicker question I used in one of my math courses that didn’t go as planned during class. I titled my post “Flexible Clicker Questions” because I wanted to make the point that clicker questions that seem to be poorly written can turn into real learning opportunities for one’s students. If you put a poorly worded multiple-choice question on an exam, you’re in for a lot of student complaints and regrading. However, in class, a poorly worded multiple-choice clicker question can, with a little agility on your part, turn out great.
I mention this because Mitch Keller recently described a similar incident in his math course over on his blog, Partially Ordered Thoughts. He posed a particular clicker question with what he thought had a single correct answer. His “correct answer” was indeed the most popular student response to the question, but more than 60% of students selected other answers. Mitch wisely had his students discuss the question in small groups and then led a classwide discussion of the question. Not only did he surface the correct reasoning for the “correct” answer, but he discussed the other answer choices, too. It turned out that there were reasonable arguments for not one, but three of his answer choices. Mitch writes:
A natural first reaction to a slip-up in a clicker question is almost always “Drats! I thought I’d done that perfectly.” However, it became a teachable moment. In reality, we were able to discuss far more aspects of generating functions than I intended with the question.
Have you used a clicker question that turned out to be poorly worded, yet resulted in valuable class discussions? Please share below!
Image: “Untitled” by Flickr user Maurizio Polese / Creative Commons licensed