Why I like clickers

— Mark Mitchell

You’re practicing bad teaching if you’re not doing this. That’s what the data says. It’s high time everybody changed. – Carl Wieman, Nobel Prize winner, science adviser to President Obama

I’ll never teach a course again without the use of clickers… — Eric Landrum, psychology professor who has published extensively on teaching psychology.

Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell

Clearly, these two professors like clickers. Here are 7 reasons you may soon share their enthusiasm.

  1. Clickers improve test scores. In one study of classes using clickers, test scores jumped 1 ½ grades (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014).
  2. Clickers improve engagement. In classes using clickers, not only are most students answering all of your clicker questions, but students are also attending class more and talking more in class (Bruff, 2009).
  3. Clickers give you almost psychic powers. Traditional methods of figuring out what students know (e.g., reading faces and asking whether there are any questions) are imperfect—especially when students themselves may not know how well they understand the material. By questioning students using clickers, you can instantly know what students know and what they need to be taught further.
  4. Clickers help you permanently record your students’ behaviors. Because most clicker systems permanently store responses, you can easily “recall” every clicker response your students made—and exactly when they made it. With a few keystrokes, you can recover, even years later, when they were absent, late, or left early. You can use this new superpower to grade class participation objectively.
  5. Clickers can help students recognize what they don’t know before the exam. In addition, given that rapid feedback is critical in developing so many abilities (Lemov,Woolway, &Yezzi, 2012), there is reason to hope that the rapid feedback students receive from clickers may help them develop the ability tomonitor their own understanding.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.35.56 AM

    Output from one opinion poll using i>clickers.

  6. Clickers can help students learn that others have beliefs and experiences that differ from their own. By showing students the distribution of responses given to opinion questions, you can help students better understand that not everyone sees things the way they do.
  7. You can use clickers without making drastic changes in your teaching. Once the technology is set up (which is remarkably easy), all you have to do is ask at least one clicker question per class period—and that question can be one that you already ask. You might ask
    • the main question that your presentation was designed to answer,
    • a peer assessment,
    • a sample test question,
    • an opinion question (according to Bruff [2009], such a question may promote engagement the same way that clicking the “Like” button on Facebook does),
    • a question over the assigned reading, or
    • a question to determine whether the new demonstration, video clip, or activity was effective.


The evidence strongly suggests that clickers are highly effective. They are also easy to use. You can set up a class within an hour (probably 15-30 minutes), by going to the following URL: http://www1.iclicker.com/ http://www1.iclicker.com/


Brown, P. C., Roediger, H. L., III, & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make it stick: The science of successful learning. New York, NY: Belknap.

Bruff, D. (2009). Teaching with classroom response systems: Creating active learning environments. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lemov, D., Woolway, E., & Yezzi, K. (2012). Practice perfect. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mark L. Mitchell is professor of psychology at Clarion University. He has written several books including Research design explained (now in its 8th edition), Writing for psychology (in its 4th edition), and Lifespan development: A topical approach.

This entry was posted in Teaching, Technology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why I like clickers

  1. K C says:

    I’m glad to hear that you like clickers now! I have fun memories of helping you get your first clicker system set up, and the challenges of having the software crash, or the sensor fall off the wall of the classroom 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s