Instructional Technology

Transforming Student Learning with Classroom Communication Systems (Documents Contributed by ECAR, 2004)

Abstract: Since 1993, the University of Massachusetts Physics Education Research Group (UMPERG) has developed curriculum and pedagogic techniques for use with classroom communication systems (CCSs) and has researched the effectiveness of CCS-based teaching. This bulletin describes how CCSs can influence "interactive pedagogy" and fundamentally transform the learning process. It includes advice drawn from lessons learned through a decade of experience.

Classroom Response System Bibliography
An extensive bibliography compiled by Derek Bruff of Vanderbilt University.


Careful planning is the key to avoiding pitfalls when using clickers to teach. New users may feel excited about the technology and, at the same time, overwhelmed by the various opportunities to make use of clickers in teaching. Read more »


Preparing the right questions for clicker use is just as important as learning how to operate the technology.  By writing effective questions, instructors will ensure a closer connection between clicker questions and course learning objectives (Beatty, Gerace, Leonard, & Dufresne, 2006).

Different questions elicit different responses and require different levels of cognitive engagement.  Knowledge-level questions ask for simple recall of facts and data without assessing them critically, whereas analysis, synthesis and evaluation questions require critical thinking and judgment. When faculty are simply assessing students’ basic understanding, a knowledge-level question may be appropriate.  But when faculty wish to engage students in thinking critically about course content, a knowledge-level question may fall short of reaching the goal.  For example, Mazur (1993) found that students in his physics class could manipulate equations but had limited understanding of the principles behind the math.  As a result, he focused on concept questions that asked students to interpret data or explain equations rather than recall facts or do calculations.

In addition to writing questions that measure the given learning objectives, faculty may need to learn techniques for writing effective multiple-choice questions.  Practical suggestions from Wit (2003), Beekes (2006), and Draper and Brown (2002) for writing effective questions include the following: Read more »


Josepha Kurdziel, ( from Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, LSA, demonstrated and discussed her use of the wireless classroom response systems to involve students in active learning and critical thinking in large lectures at the CRLT IT Luncheon on Friday February 4, 2005.

You can see her PowerPoint presentation (in note form) and watch a preview, and/or an edited version of the presentation.

PowerPoint notes - .pdf (48 KB)
Preview of Presentation- (3.7 MB - 1.51 minutes)
IT Luncheon Presentation - (74.3 MB - 33.21 minutes)

Get QuickTime Player

Michael Falk, ( from Materials Science & Engineering, College of Engineering shared and discussed his experience using a classroom response system in teaching a large engineering course on February 3 at the Lurie Engineering Center, North Campus.

You can see his PowerPoint presentation (in note form) and link to a web page with video clips of his class. Read more »


What Are Student and Instructor Attitudes towards Using Clickers in the Classroom?

Over the past twenty years, studies examining the usefulness and weakness of clickers in various instructional settings have revealed both promise and problems.  In Fall 2006 and Winter 2007, surveys were conducted of students taking Literature, Science, and the Arts (LS&A) classes that used clickers.  The surveys asked students whether clickers were helpful for improving teaching and student learning. The findings were consistent with those from studies in institutions across the country, revealing both strengths and drawbacks of this technology. Read more »