Interaction strategies

Below are examples of strategies that you can use to generate interaction in your class using clickers. These strategies build upon two key principles:

  • Give students time to think about their answer to the question in order to generate their own opinion.
  • Allow students to discuss their answer with others, having a chance to explain the reasoning behind their answer and confronting it to the reasoning of others.
     

Think-Pair-Vote-Share

This strategy is the clicker-based version of the Think-Pair-Share activity (Lyman, 1981). The peer discussion part of this strategy gives students the opportunity to check their answer before sharing with the whole class, therefore decreasing barriers to participation. This strategy is therefore very useful for difficult questions where several answers are possible, or when your participation rate drops.

How to proceed?

  1. Give a short lecture on a concept or idea.
  2. Display the question.
  3. Think: ask students to think individually about their answer. Require silence in the classroom to make sure students don’t comment to each other during this time.
  4. Pair: ask students to pair with their neighbour or to get into groups of 3 or 4 to discuss their respective answers. The goal is that they try to convince each other of the right answer so they should pair with someone who has a different answer.
  5. Vote: make students vote.
  6. Share: discuss the results as a group.



1-3 min.



2-5 min.


 

Think Pair Vote Share

You may also include a voting step between phases Think and Pair so that students commit to their individual answer before discussing with others. In that case, we suggest you not to show the resulting graph to students so that it doesn’t influence too much their opinion. With this additional step, this strategy is then very similar to the Peer Instruction strategy described below.

 

Peer Instruction

Developed by Harvard physicist Eric Mazur, Peer Instruction (Mazur, 1997) is a research-based, interactive teaching method which uses peer discussion as a way for students to deepen their understanding of a concept by learning from each other. 

The figure below illustrate the principles of this method. In class, you start by giving a short lecture on a core idea or concept (you may also have asked to students to study more detailed material at home). Then you ask a clicker question designed to expose common difficulties in understanding the material. If the results of the poll show that students are divided on the choice of the correct answer, you ask students to discuss the question by pairs or in groups. During this process, students verbalize their reasoning, debate and assess their understanding of the concepts, which is the goal of the method.

Peer instruction

How to proceed?

  1. Give a short lecture on a concept or idea.
  2. Display the question.
  3. Give students time to think individually about their answer. Require silence in the classroom to make sure students don’t comment to each other during this time.
  4. Make students vote.
  5. Check the results (you may not necessarily show the resulting histogram to students so that they are not influenced by the choices of others):
    1. If a majority of students got it wrong:
      ► Go back and revisit the concept. Then ask the question once again.
    2. If a majority of students got it right:
      Debrief with the group on the “why” and the “why not”, clarify if needed and confirm the correct answer to ensure that it is clear to everyone.
      You can then present another part of your lecture or ask another question.
    3. If the results are spread:
      ► This is where peer discussion is the most useful. Ask students to pair with their neighbour or to get into groups of 3 or 4 to discuss their respective answers. The goal is that they try to convince each other of the right answer so they should pair with someone who has a different answer.
      Then jump back to step 4 and make students vote again on the question.



1-3 min.














3-5 min.
 

After the peer discussion phase, the results of the second poll should show an increase in the proportion of correct answers.

However, it may happen sometimes that answers stay spread or even that the proportion of wrong answers increases. This is usually the symptom of a misunderstanding – either the concept has not been understood or the question or its distractors are not clear enough.

In such a case, it is recommended to start a whole group discussion to identify the reasons of the misunderstanding. You can ask students to advocate for the choices they made, e.g. “Can someone who answered B tell us why they made that choice?” or “Would someone like to explain why they picked the answer they did?”. It is very important to welcome their answer without commenting on it right away until several opinions have been heard. At that point, you can moderate a debate among students or clarify as needed so that the correct answer is clearly identified.

 

You can find more information and material on Peer Instruction on the following pages:

 

Other ideas

You can find other ideas and strategies for using clickers on the following pages: