University of California, Riverside


Instructional Strategies

Clickers help to break up a lecture and keep the students engaged. Instructors can use responses to help direct a lecture. While asking questions at the beginning and end of a lecture helps instructors make sure students arrive on time and stay through class, this is merely an added benefit. Clickers should be used to achieve engagement and participation, and to get students thinking critically.

Clickers have potential to initiate a dialogue between an instructor and students by breaking the one-to-many model of communication. Now, an instructor can get aggregate feedback as to whether students are comprehending course concepts, and students can see how they fare in comparison to their peers. And clickers can be used to build community in the classroom by initiating dialogue.

Multiple Choice Question Types

Multiple choice questions can be recall, conceptual, predictive, or provoking..


Example "recall" question:
An astronomical unit is defined as:

A.1,000 miles
B.1,000,000 miles
C.The earth’s distance from the sun*
D.The size of the solar system

Charactertics of well-designed "conceptual" questions:

•Centrally organize the principle of the lecture
•Replace lectures notes/outline
•Focus on CONCEPT, not facts, calculations, or procedures
•Illuminate pre-existing knowledge, intuition & misconceptions when presented before a topic presentation
•Yield a broadly spread histogram & hearty peer interaction
•Allow students to learn ways of reasoning in fuzzy contexts
•Motivate discussions & illuminates important subtleties using ambiguity
*A mini-lecture delivered after a "conceptual" question reveals conceptual gaps not resolved in discussions.

Example "conceptual" question:
If you made a scale model of the solar system using a grapefruit for the sun, the earth might be:

A.An orange
B.A grape
C.A grain of rice*
D.A bacterium

Example "predictive" question:
Suppose a beam of white light shines through a prism and makes a spectrum at the front of the class. If I take a red filter and put it in the beam, what will happen to the spectrum?

A.All the colors turn red
B.All the colors except red disappear*
C.All the colors except blue disappear
D.It depends on which side of the prism you put the filter – in the undispersed beam or in the dispersed beam.

Example "provoking" questions:
1. Current students were ‘born digital’ and need little instruction in the use and application of digital technologies.


2. Do you believe that national governments should implement policies, subsidies, or other programs to reduce birth rates?

A.No, not at all
B.Yes, but only positive incentives for fewer children
C.Yes – penalties for too many children
D.Yes, both incentives and penalties

Best Practices for Implementing Clickers in the Classroom

From “Clickers in the Classroom: An Active Learning Approach
Published in Educause Quarterly, 2007, Number
Written by Margie Martyn
Conducted at a “small, liberal arts college in the Midwestern United States”

  1. Keep slides short to optimize legibility
  2. Keep the number of answer options to no more than 5.
  3. Do not make the questions overly complex.
  4. Keep voting straightforward.
  5. Allow sufficient time for students to answer questions. Some general guidelines:
    - Classes of fewer thank 30 students: 15-20 seconds per question
    - Classes of 30 to 100 students: 30 seconds per question
    - Classes of more than 100 students: 1 minute per question
  6. Allow time for discussion between questions.
  7. Encourage active discussion with the audience.
  8. Do not ask too many questions; use them for the key points
  9. Position the questions at periodic intervals throughout the presentation
  10. Include an "answer now" prompt to differentiate between lecture slides and interactive polling slides
  11. Use a "correct answer" indicator to visually identify the appropriate answer
  12. Include a "response grid" so that students know their responses have registered.
  13. Increase responsiveness by using a "countdown timer" that will close polling after a set amount of time.
  14. Test the system in the proposed location to identify technical issues (lighting, signal interference, etc.)
  15. On the actual day of the session, allow time to set out clickers and start system.
  16. Rehearse actual presentation to make sure it will run smoothly.
  17. Provide clear instructions on how to use the clickers to the audience.
  18. Do not overuse the system or it will lose its "engagement" potential.
*tips 1-5, 14-16, and 18 come from Robertson; tips 6-9 and 17 from Duncan, and tips 10-13 from Turning Point Technologies.

 For links to additional articles, information, and support documents, see the Resources section of the site.



More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
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Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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Tel: (951) 827-3555
Fax: (951) 827-4541