Article: Cain & Robinson (2008) – Clickers in the Health Professions

Back in January I gave a keynote talk at the Health Professionals Education Research Symposium hosted by Nova Southeastern University.  Part of my preparation for that talk included reading some of the articles from related disciplines in my clickers bibliography.  Shortly after the conference, I blogged about one great article about using clickers to promote critical thinking in nursing (Debourgh, 2008), and I’ve been meaning to post some notes about the other articles I read.  Let’s get started…

Reference: Cain, J., & Robinson, E. (2008). A primer on audience response systems: Current applications and future considerations. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 72(4), 77.

Notes: The literature review is the highlight of this article.  It’s not as comprehensive as other lit reviews, but it does a great job of describing a few studies of the use of clickers in the health professions with particularly positive results.  For example, Slain et al. (2004) report that students in clicker sections of two pharmacy courses scored significantly higher on exams than students in non-clickers sections.  Similar results were found by Schackow et al. (2004) in classes for family medicine residents and by Pradhan, Sparano, and Ananth (2005) in classes for obstetrics and gynecology residents.  These references are listed in my bibliography.  Hopefully, I’ll find some time to read and blog about them soon.

Cain and Robinson also include a useful exploration of some of the logistical aspects of teaching with clickers.  Instead of making recommendations, they describe the various choices a department might make and their pros and cons.  They note that any clickers initiative should make sense given an institutions teaching philosophy and technology plan.

For example, a pharmacy school with a mandatory laptop program may highly value an ARS that can utilize laptops as response devices, rather than basing the decision on other features.

They also recommend purchasing a set of clickers available to faculty and staff to check out for one-shot events, like continuing education programs and faculty meetings.

The section on recommendations for future research is a strong one.  Cain and Robinson write, “Any effects from using an instructional medium do not come from the use of the media itself, but from the instructional methods employed.”  That’s something I’ve argued here before.  Cain and Robinson call for research that explores the effects of very particular instructional strategies involving clickers, including strategies useful for facilitating discussion about matters of ethics and morality.  While ethical issues are present in every discipline, they are often particularly important in professional education.

Cain and Robinson make an interesting statement in their section on student considerations: “Finally, appropriate application of the ARS in the curriculum should be defined and encouraged.”  I understand the interest in encouraging instructors to use clickers in appropriate ways.  It’s the “defining” piece that makes me wonder if pharmacy education is a bit more top-down than the kinds of programs you find in, say, colleges of arts and science.  I find that faculty members in undergraduate liberal arts departments tend to have a high degree of autonomy when it comes to their teaching decisions.  They might not be comfortable having appropriate uses of clickers “defined” for them.  Am I reading too much into this word choice?  Does your department (whatever your discipline) set policy on educational technology use?

Image: “Rx, San Antonio, TX” by Flickr user Tadson / Creative Commons licensed

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