Teach effectively with clickers

A typical lecture with clickers follows this general pattern:

How to use a clicker question in class

  1. First present a short part of the content of your lecture (10-15 min.).
  2. Then ask a question.
    More information below on how to ask a clicker question effectively.

  3. Make students vote.
  4. Use the results of the vote : debrief with students, start a whole-group discussion around the “why” and the “why not”, adapt the plan of your lesson…

You can then ask another question, or start to present the next part of your lecture.
A one-hour lecture can typically include 3 to 4 questions.

Alternative schemas can be used to generate even more interaction with and among students using clickers. Check-out the interaction strategies presented on this page.

How to ask a clicker question effectively?

Asking a clicker question is at the same time simple and delicate.
Be sure to follow these 5 steps:

  1. Display the question. You can read it out loud for students and give explanations if necessary but keep it short.
  2. Start the polling and give short voting instructions, including an indicative timing information e.g. “I give you 2 minutes to think about your answer and to vote”.
  3. Wait.
    Step back, don’t say anything. Just monitor the evolution of the number of votes or the level of noise in the room. When noise decreases or when you have a sufficient number of votes, jump to next step (but note that there no point in waiting for a 100% response rate…).
  4. Announce the imminent closing of the poll and wait 30 seconds for last minutes votes.
    Count down, then close the poll.
  5. Display the results and debrief with the students.


How to encourage participation?

Clickers are not magical, the participation rate is never guaranteed. That is why we suggest you to:

  • Explain to your students why you are using clickers and how it can help them learn.
  • Start smoothly e.g. with a simple question (like a demographic), an ice breaker or a “testing the system” question. Help them feel safe interacting with you – it may take time to install a participative climate in a student group.
  • Use clear and short instructions.
  • Give students time to think.
    Use silence and wait for votes without doing anything – silence is tough, but if you keep talking they will listen to you instead of thinking and answering your question.
  • Ask the students to discuss their answer with their peers before voting.
    Verbalizing and sharing their reasoning with others will reassure them and they will be more willing to participate. During discussion phases, walk around in the classroom to get feedback on what is happening.
  • Adapt to what is happening in the classroom.
    Be flexible on the participation rate and on the timing – give more time if students discuss a lot the question, stop the polling if students are starting to talk about last night’s party.
  • Always encourage students to share their reasoning and explain their answer.
    When a student gives a wrong answer in front of the others, don’t express any judgement on it. Instead, ask students who have voted differently to share their answer. Only after that, confirm which is the correct answer and why, and ensure that it is clear for everyone in the classroom.

To read more about audience participation, read this article by Olivia Mitchell and this article by Jason Teteak.