Further Thoughts on the Costs (and Benefits) of Clickers

Back in December, I shared some thoughts on Michael Bugeja’s Chronicle of Higher Education essay titled “Classroom Clickers and the Cost of Technology.”  My post generated a lot of comments.  Bugeja’s essay generated other responses as well, including three letters to the editor published last month in the Chronicle.  All three letters point to educational research conducted on teaching with classroom response systems that Bugeja chose not to mention in his essays, which was my response to the essay, as well.

For instance, Stephanie Chasteen of the University of Colorado-Boulder wrote:

Mr. Bugeja hypothesizes that students would vote against the use of clickers because the costs outweigh the benefits. Research suggests otherwise. In our own large introductory-physics courses, 95 percent of students stated that clickers helped them learn the material. Studies in other disciplines suggest that students are more likely to value clickers when they’re used to promote discussion, rather than to ask simple questions or take attendance.

Doug Duncan, also of the University of Colorado-Boulder, wrote:

Most of the practices [Bugeja] describes are what our research shows to be worst practices. We see them fail, too. When instructors use clickers as part of peer instruction and explain to students that they will attend class more, work harder, learn more, and be rewarded for that, peer instruction and clickers produce learning gains. When instructors ask low-level memorization questions and don’t explain why they are using clickers, students call them dumb and worthless.

I’ll continue to explore and discuss the research on teaching with clickers here on this blog.  Given the clear learning gains that clickers can facilitate as well as the cost of the technology, it’s important to give due consideration to both sides of the cost-benefit discussion.

Further thoughts on Bugeja’s essay or on these responses to it?

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