08 March 2010

Are Clickers Really Effective in Improving Student Performance?

A survey of students in six biology courses showed that students not only have favorable opinions about the use of student response systems (or clickers), but clicker usages also increase student learning (Preszler et al, 2007). Prior to this, Judson and Sawada (2002) have shown that students consistently show positive evaluations of using clickers in class for three decades, but there has been no consistent demonstration of learning improvement until this study.

81% of the students in the study agreed that using clickers increased their interest in their course. 71% of students agreed that clickers made it more likely for them to attend class. 70% agreed that clickers improved their understanding of course material. Most important, there was a significant linear increase in exam scores across all three levels of clicker usage frequency per class (low - 0 to 2, medium - 2 to 3, high - 4 to 6). That is high clicker usage results in mean student grades greater than medium clicker usage, and medium clicker usage results in greater mean student grades than low clicker usage.

Methodology: The study by Preszler et al. first analyzed whether the course grade distribution is similar among the six courses (using stepwise chi-square analysis), and then the students' opinions of clicker usage is analyzed to see if they differ by course grades (again using stepwise chi-square analysis). Courses that are significantly different are not included in the analysis to preserve as much consistency among the courses as possible. Clicker usage frequency in the courses follows a Latin square design to maintain an overall similar equivalent number of clicker questions used over the testing period to avoid biasing variation.


Judson, E., and Sawada, D. (2002). Learning from the past and present: electronic response systems in college lecture halls. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching. 21(2), pp 167 - 181.

Preszler, R., Dawe, A., Shuster, C., and Shuster, M. (Spring 2007). Assessment of the Effects of Student Response Systems on Student Learning and Attitudes over a Broad Range of Biology Courses. Life Sciences Education. Vol 6, pp 29 - 41.

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