Monday, December 15, 2008

The Case for Classroom Clickers - A Response to Bugeja

Some blog readers may be interested in a recent report with the above title. The abstract reads (slightly edited):

Michael Bugeja, in a Chronicle of Higher Education  article "Classroom Clickers and the Cost of Technology" states that clickers at Iowa State have been pushed by commercial interests in a way that subverts rather than enhances education, a complaint that deserves to be taken seriously by universities.  But Bugeja then goes on to imply that clickers: (a) were introduced into education by manufacturers, thus ignoring their academic pedigree, and (b) are nearly useless in education, ignoring the evidence for their effectiveness.  Perhaps the most dramatic such evidence has been provided by Eric Mazur, who increased the class average normalized learning gain g(ave) on a standardized test of conceptual understanding of Newtonian mechanics by a factor of about two when he switched from traditional passive-student lectures to clicker-assisted "Peer Instruction" (PI).  In addition, clickers: (1) have contributed to the spread of the PI approach by providing a relatively easy and attractive bridge from traditional lectures to greater interactivity, (2) allow instructors to  obtain real-time student feedback in histogram form, thus "making students' thinking visible and promoting critical listening, evaluation, and argumentation in the class,"  (3) archive student responses so as to improve questions and contribute to education research.  From a broader perspective, clickers may contribute to the spread of "interactive engagement" methods shown to be relatively effective in introductory physics instruction - i.e., methods designed to promote conceptual understanding through the active engagement of students in heads-on (always) and hands-on (usually) activities that yield immediate feedback though discussion with peers and/or instructors.

To access the complete 716 kB report please click on 

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Several of us at CU Boulder have written responses as letters to the editor to Bugeja's letter, too. Thanks for the detailed case, Richard, as this will be useful to us in a variety of venues.