Friday, February 19, 2016

iClickers in the Psychology Classroom

The iClicker system is a tool that allows for active classroom participation providing immediate feedback resulting in less confusion or misunderstandings about content.  What follows provides a look at how clickers are used in psychology courses by Dr. Bianca Basten and Dr. Ryan McKelley.

Bianca Basten:  I use iClickers in two ways; graded in-class quizzes and to check in with students and receive/provide feedback about their understanding of concepts, their opinions/attitudes about ideas, or their responses to in-class demonstrations.

iClickers are used frequently in my classes to assess students’ understanding of concepts we just covered and address which aspects of the material they found particularly unclear. Immediate responses allow me to see what students know and what their misconceptions are so we can address those immediately.

iClickers are a great way to conduct in-class demonstrations (in my cognitive psych class) in which students are participants. When asking for responses to in-class demonstrations, I’m able to show students a graph of their responses. A discussion usually follows connecting how their data support a particular cognitive theory or align with data from the research study they just read about. Engaging in an activity and then seeing a visual representation of their own data aids their understanding of the concept much more than simply hearing about it in theory.

The whole system is easy to use and grading and importing quiz scores to D2L is incredibly efficient. When assessing students’ understanding of the material, feedback is immediate and incorrect responses can be used to generate further discussion about course concepts.  Even students seem to like the ease of use, the immediate feedback and the natural breaking point in the lecture often jumpstarting conversations, particularly for those students who are usually too shy/quiet to chime in and provide feedback that they would otherwise keep to themselves.

As a cognitive psychologist, I love the amount of data about cognitive processes that the iClickers are able to provide. I can look at the raw data to figure out if response times are predictive of accuracy (e.g., are those who select an answer the quickest also those the ones who get it right?).  I can look at response strategies (e.g., do students pick an answer and stick with it or do they switch their response? If they switch, does that increase or decrease their likelihood of being accurate).

Ryan McKelley:  I use iClickers in PSY 100: General Psychology, which often has 400-600 students in any given semester. I commonly use the iClicker to assess understanding of a concept. I show the distribution of answers and then walk through the correct and incorrect responses to highlight where students get stuck in their understanding. I sometimes include questions that I know will have an even distribution of answers to also teach test-taking strategies when you have trouble recalling content from studying, or had a gap in studying. In addition to sample questions, I use them to get opinions on topics that would be too sensitive for public disclosure (e.g., substance use) and then compare the results to published data on similar populations.

Comments on student evaluations suggest that students find that the most useful part is when I take the time to explain and discuss the correct and incorrect answers. I find those teachable moments helpful because they can expose gaps in my instruction if I failed to fully explain a concept because I assumed the class had prior knowledge or were reading the assigned text before class.

I have found that many of my students enjoy the extra instruction that comes from using the iClickers. I never just display the answer and move on without discussion, therefore turning an assessment opportunity into an active learning opportunity. Lastly, some say it helps build in interaction or the ability to participate in a large lecture where it they are at risk for tuning out or feeling like a number. Clicker questions are a great way to encourage discussion in the classroom, giving students a chance to learn from their peers.  It also gives them an opportunity to share their ideas with the instructor, promoting a classroom culture that is more inclusive.

iClickers allow me to interact with everyone on at least a minimal level. The major benefit is real-time assessment of learning so I can make shifts in my instruction. 

For more about iClickers, visit

Submitted by Dr. Bianca Basten and Dr. Ryan McKelley, Psychology Department