AAPT Presentation by Ian Beatty: Addressing Common Concerns about Teaching with Clickers

The summer meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) wraps up in Portland, Oregon, today. There were several talks on teaching physics with clickers at the meeting, including one by Ian Beatty of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro physics education research group. Ian was the subject of my first podcast interview, and he’s been doing great work helping science instructors at the K12 and post-secondary levels teach effectively with clickers.

In Ian’s presentation, he identified and addressed several common concerns instructors express about teaching with clickers. For each concern, Ian identifies a belief about teaching and/or learning that likely underlies the concern, as well as an alternate belief that can be adopted to address the concern productively. Ian also includes some practical strategies and example clicker questions for each of these alternate beliefs.

For example, when many instructors hear about teaching with clickers, they’re concerned with having sufficient class time to cover what they need to cover in their courses given the time required by having students discuss and respond to clicker questions. Ian notes that this concern is likely a result of the following belief: “I must explicitly address in class everything students will be held accountable for.” Ian then presents an alternate perspective on this idea: “I can use class time to focus on core ideas and big-picture understanding, and charge students with filling in the details outside class.” This alternate perspective is, perhaps, non-intuitive to many instructors, but it’s a reasonable and useful perspective to have. Adopting this perspective leads to a shift from what Ian calls an understanding of class as a place to present content to an understanding of class as a place to help students digest content. Ian then shares five tips and techniques for implementing this shift in the classroom.

Ian addresses other concerns in a similar manner, including concerns about having enough time to write good clicker questions, concerns about poor student participation during class, and concerns about changing one’s teaching style. His visuals, which use the online presentation tool Prezi, are included below and are well worth checking out.

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