Marcie Gabriel
April 23, 2010

Assessment Software - Student Response Systems

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Personal Response Units (“Clickers”) Teachers are using technology-based, active responding systems in their lessons to make them more interactive, motivating, and effective. They can conduct real-time assessment of student learning (Barber & Njus, 2007; Bruff, 2007). The use of interactive electronic devices is not new. Instructors have been using these devices since the 1960’s (Judson and Sawada, 2002), and, aside from the display features, they have changed very little. Early on they were either hard-wired or infrared, but today’s clickers can also operate by radio frequency where the clicker transmits signals to a receiver in the room, or are wireless.

Definition - What is a student response system?

How Can I Utilize a Student Response System Effectively? Teachers using these systems design questions to check understanding of new concepts, to elicit predictions for outcomes of word problems, science experiments, or readings, to poll or survey students, and to review previously taught concepts. Most often these questions are in a multiple-choice format. Students respond electronically, allowing teachers to monitor learning. The format can be factual, computational, conceptual, or comprehensive. Teachers use probes and quizzes, interactive activities, and poll, opinion and review questions (Beatty, Gerace, Leonard & Dufresne, 2006; Jermome & Barbetta, 2005). Responses can be immediately tabulated so that teachers can use the data to guide their feedback and adjust their instruction. Feedback is most effective when it is corrective in nature, timely, and specific to the criteria. (Li, 2007).
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The display mode of the system facilitates instantaneous feedback in an anonymous manner. The multiple-choice format is most frequently used for obtaining feedback from students. Students are assigned code numbers and corresponding clickers. They respond to a question by choosing an answer and electronically submitting it. All responses are shown (they can be projected using an LCD projector or displayed on a Promethian Board), and the correct response is given. Mestre (2001) states that “formative assessment should be used frequently to monitor students’ understanding and to help tailor instruction to meet students’ needs”. Redish (2003) also suggests that homework, quizzes and exams should be designed as formative feedback.
external image tutoring_img.jpg Most students and teachers like using “clickers” and have found they have improved student achievement. The improvement can be attributed to the immediate feedback students receive, causing an increase in self-competitiveness (Segovia, 2004). Draper and Brown (2004) stated that the clickers are used most advantageously for interactive engagement and diagnostic assessment. Students who feel embarrassed when answering questions in class find clickers to be an anonymous way to respond to questions and receive immediate feedback (Natural Resource Council (USA) 1999).

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These systems allow students, especially those who are quiet or shy, to "silently" ask questions, and let teachers unobtrusively send responses or provide feedback to individuals or groups of students. Some students process information quickly and are eager to answer questions posed by a teacher, whereas others process more slowly and rarely get the opportunity to arrive at an answer before one of their more zealous classmates has volunteered the information. Clickers afford all students an opportunity to process and answer all of the questions. Teachers also can use student response systems to solicit feedback from students regarding their mastery of concepts and to involve students in learning games.

Some disadvantages of clickers are the cost and care associated with the hand held version. This can be avoided by installing “virtual clickers” on student laptops. Additionally, Ipod Touches ( have a student response application and can also be used as clickers.

Preparing to Use Ipod Touches as Student Response Systems in the Classroom


Barnett, J. (2006). Implementation of personal response units in very large lecture classes: Student perceptions. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. 22(4), 474-494.

This article was about a large-scale implementation of student response units at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Three introductory science courses were studied. Students, participant observers and teachers were surveyed regarding their feelings about the use of the clickers. The students had favorable perceptions regarding the use of the response system, however, there were problems with implementation. The article cited advantages and disadvantages of the technology and had suggestions for best use practices.

Demski, J. (2010). A Quicker Clicker. T H E Journal, 37(3)

Author Jennifer Demski, discusses the use of virtual clickers by school districts for formative assessment. Software can be installed on student netbook computers which students operate with a mouse or a touchpad. Students log into the system using a username and password. Demski states that frequent, short assessments check students’ understanding so that teachers can modify their pace and focus accordingly.

Li, Pengfei. (2008). Perceptions and uses of clicker technology. Dissertation Abstracts International. 68(7-B)

This dissertation reported a systematic project of the OSU Physics Education group to develop and test a new methodology for clickers. They used a constructivist model to improve classroom dynamics and learning. It also facilitated immediate feedback for instruction modification and reteaching. It covered an introduction to the project and teaching principles that have arisen from research and practice. The methodology described originated partly from teaching experience as well as the constructivist teaching principles. The dissertation included research on the history of clicker technology and different types of clickers. Common problems and solutions were also included in the paper. The paper included a year-long, controlled, quantitative study comprised to determine whether using clickers helped students learn, how they helped, and whether students had a positive attitude toward the use of clickers. They determined that clickers have become increasingly popular. Research showed that using clickers could improve classroom dynamics. They identified three important features of clickers: 1. Getting feedback to learners about their understanding of material presented, 2. Getting most students to participate in answering questions, 3. Student anonymity was protected, which is important in achieving these benefits. Their research also revealed that clickers can be used as a tool to increase active engagement. (2004 Wood).

Martyn, M. (2007). Clickers in the classroom: An active learning approach. Educase Quarterly 30(2)

Active learning is widely acclaimed as having benefits in higher education and clickers offer one approach for employing active learning. They actively engage learners, gauge their understanding of concepts, and provide prompt feedback. Clickers offer anonymity to the learners when they express their views and the cumulative class response is shown on the screen. The teacher, however, can download the individual responses and check for understanding. "One of the best features of an SRS is that it allows students to provide input without fear of public humiliation and without having to worry about more vocal students dominating the discussion." (Martyn, 2007) Another advantage of clickers is that they follow the premise of "game-based learning" since students are avid video game players. Martyn's study compared two classes using clickers to two classes using classroom discussion. Learning outcomes were measured using the final exam at the end of the semester. There was no statistically significant difference between the classes. Despite the statistics, the mean scores were consistently higher for students' perceptions of success as a result of using clickers.


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