With email, text messaging, and the Internet the answers sought by students are discovered instantly. However, this isn’t the case when it comes to their education. Students are forced to wait a week or more to get their quiz results back and those huge lecture classes they must take limit teacher student interaction, leaving both to guess how well they are grasping a concept. Both scenarios can be eliminated by giving the students what they desire, instant feedback.

What a Clicker Does
Educators want to end the passive learning environment, as Cohen states “class participation provides one means for enhancing our teaching and brining life to the classroom.” Clickers, which are mainly used in large lecture classes at colleges and universities, can help promote class participation (Beckert, Fauth, Olsen 601). Clickers promote active learning by forcing students to discuss the concepts that are being quizzed and eliminate the scenario of waiting a week to receive quiz results, instead the results are seen instantaneously.

Clickers allow students to see and hear more than a traditional lecture. Hoekstra states that “there’s more going on, and there’s more commotion around people, like in other lecture halls, it could be dead silent because the professor is talking.” Clickers give students opportunities to discuss material and most importantly stay focused. Koeing states “The glazed-over eyes of the students disappeared when I used clickers.” This technology also creates a break from note taking that is found in large lecture classes. Hoekstra states that, “the clicker forces you to pause, after you’ve kind of absorbed something…it allows you to pause, reflect on it, check yourself…versus sitting there for 50 minutes and absorbing all the material without a break.” In a general chemistry lecture at the University of Colorado at Boulder clickers helped peer interaction and eliminate the anxiety of learning new concepts (Hoekstra 337).


However, in order for this technology to be properly used, it must be successfully implemented into the classroom. That main focus should be on learning not on the clickers itself. Questions created for the students should relate to the topic being discusses and should benefit their learning, not hinder it (Premkumar, Coupal 147). Instructors who would like to use this technology or are just beginning to use it, should test the questions they create and should remember to give their students at least three to five minutes to respond. This way after the students have answered the question, the instructor can explain why a certain answer is correct or why a certain answer is incorrect (Premkumar, Coupal 147).

Pros and Cons
Clickers have several upsides, but also have some downsides. Clickers allow instructors to keep their students actively engaged throughout an entire lecture, eliminating the passive learning environment. This technology also gives both the instructor and the student the ability to gauge how well they understand a concept. The most important feature is that clickers give instant feedback to student’s questions (Martyn 71).

With the use of this technology it may be possible for less material to be covered in class. But, the main issue is teaching instructors how to use this technology, it take approximately twenty hours to learn how to use it (Hatch, Jensen, Moore 37). Another problem is creating effective and meaningful questions. Clickers can be used for opinion questions, however more complex multiple-choice questions promote higher order thinking (Connor 25).

A final problem is determining whether or not clickers would be successful beyond the first year classroom. The main goal of smaller, second year classes is to cover all the material and use of this technology interferes with that. However, in a physics lecture seventeen students were asked “would you recommend using clickers beyond the first year courses?” Out of those seventeen students, twelve (70%) said they recommend the use of this technology and only two (12%) stated clickers were a waste of time (Bolotin, Antrimirova, Petrov 15). The chart below shows this information.

(17 students) Recommend it Neutral Waste of Time
"Would you recommend using clickers beyond the first year courses?" 12 (70%) 3 (18%) 2 (12%)

How Clickers Work
In a large lecture class maybe one or two students have the opportunity to respond to a professor, because of this the professor has no idea if their other students understand. But, if a student is unsure of the answer to a question posed by the professor, they will most likely not respond for fear of public humiliation (Martyn 72). Clickers eliminate both scenarios by allowing all students to answer and lets the more quiet students answer without fear of public humiliation. Clickers also follow the principles of game based learning, which appeals to the “digital natives” (Martyn 72). This technology also allows educators to determine how well their students understand the concepts presented. Koeing states “I was already using multiple-choice questions in class, but with clickers all students participate rather than just one or two students answering verbally. I also now alter my instruction based on the feedback I get with clickers.”


Students must purchase and then register their individual clickers (Hatch, Jensen, More 36). At the University of Colorado at Boulder, each lecture hall/classroom is equipped with a specific code necessary to make the clicker work. However, each university and college differs, the code may be assigned to the individual students at the time of registration.

Teachers set up a true false or multiple-choice quiz using power point or a power point like program. Student responses are recorded and instantly analyzed allowing both the teacher and student to see how well or poorly they understood the concepts (Connor 20-21). Clickers can be also be used to take attendance, at Wright State University seven out of fourteen physics professors used this feature. This increased attendance to 85-95%. However, in classes where clickers weren’t used for this feature, attendance remained at 50-60% (Koeing 49).

Success Stories
In the past ten years more and more instructors have implemented clicker technology into their classrooms (Kolikant, Drane, Calkins 127). Chicago State University is just one of the many examples of clicker tehnology success. They have modified their introductory physics courses by implementing clicker question sequences. This allows students to vote on questions posed by the professor without their peers knowing (Watkins, Sabella 223).

Another example of clicker success took place during a lecture in a microeconomics course, where clicker question quizzes were posed to see if the students understood the concepts. If feedback showed the students understood, the professor would continue lecturing. However, if feedback showed a lack of understanding the teacher would review the concepts until he/she felt their students understood (Elliot). And in a biology class, clickers were used to promote student discussion of different concepts. Professors broke students into groups to promote more active discussion of possible answers. This showed students were debating potential answers that resulted in choosing an answer that was correct (Knight, Wood).

Towards the end of a term students were surveyed to see if clickers helped in any way. The survey showed that students experience with these devices was positive; fifty-nine percent of the 3, 967 students actively participated in discussions. The survey also showed students who used clickers did better on the final exam than those who chose not to use the clickers (Keller et al 130).

A study done at Ohio State University—Mansfield also showed the success of clicker technology. In this study three sections of a physcology lecture used clickers, while one section did not. Eleven questions were taken from an exam that came from the lecture. In the three sections where clickers were used, 89.49% of the eleven questions were answered correctly. And in the non-clicker section, 81.45% of the eleven questions were answered correctly (Shaffer, Collura 275). The chart below shows this information.

Questions Answered Correctly (11 total)
Clicker Sections 89.49%
Non-Clicker Section 81.45%

Teachers are growing to like this technology more and more. Huge lecture classes are becoming more enjoyable to teach because instead of receiving feedback from one or two students, the entire class participates. Finally student teacher interaction is able to extend past the first row and reach every individual in the lecture hall (Koeing 49).

Clicker technology should be implemented in every classroom at every college and university. They will end the passive learning environment, which will make students actually want to attend class. Also, students will be able to gauge their understanding of a concept and not have to hope they get it. Teachers will be able to also know how well their students are doing. Clickers give students what they want from their education, instant feedback. No more waiting for a week to get quiz results back. Clickers will change the modern classroom for better; finally bringing it up to the fast paced standard the “digital natives” are accustomed to.

Works Cited

Milner-Bolotin, Marina, Tetyana Antimirova, and Anna Petrov. "Clickers Beyond the First-Year Science Classroom." Journal of College Science Teaching 40.2 (2010): 14-18. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Hatch, Jay, Murray Jensen, and Randy Moore. "Manna from Heaven or "Clickers" from Hell." Journal of College Science Teaching 34.7 (2005): 36-39. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Martyn, Margie. “Clickers in the Classroom: An Active Learning Approach.” Educause Quarterly (2007): 71-74. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Connor, Elizabeth. "Perceptions and Uses of Clicker Technology." Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries 6.1 (2009): 19-32. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 3 Dec. 2010.

Keller, C., et al. "Research-based Practices For Effective Clicker Use." AIP Conference Proceedings 951.1 (2007): 128-131. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

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Premkumar, Kalyani, and Cyril Coupal. "Rules of engagement-12 tips for successful use of "clickers" in the classroom." Medical Teacher 30.2 (2008): 146-149. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Kolikant, Yifat Ben-David, Denise Drane, and Susanna Calkins. "'Clickers' as Catalysts for Transformation of Teachers." College Teaching 58.4 (2010): 127-135. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Watkins, Erica P., and Mel S. Sabella. "Examining the Effectiveness of Clickers on Promoting Learning by Tracking the Evolution of Student Responses." AIP Conference Proceedings 1064.1 (2008): 223-226. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Beckert, Troy E., Elizabeth Fauth, and Kaelin Olsen. "Clicker Satisfaction for Students in Human Development: Differences for Class Type, Prior Exposure, and Student Talkativity." North American Journal of Psychology 11.3 (2009): 599-611. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Shaffer, Dennis M., and Michael J. Collura. "Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Personal Response System in the Classroom." Teaching of Psychology 36.4 (2009): 273-277. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Koenig, Kathleen. "Building Acceptance for Pedagogical Reform Through Wide-Scale Implementation of Clickers." Journal of College Science Teaching 39.3 (2010): 46-50. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

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