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Guest Post: Using “Clickers” at U. Tennessee to Draw in OM Students

November 26, 2012

This Guest Post comes from Dr. Bogdan Bichescu, Assistant Professor of Management Science in the University of Tennessee’s College of Business Administration. Bogdan teaches very large OM classes and has blogged for us before about his experiences in that environment.

Attempting to improve student participation, this semester I decided to tie grade curving to class attendance and participation in my large introductory operations class. I suggested that students who attend classes and participate regularly would receive a bonus of up to 1% of their final grade. To avoid the operational challenges of collecting and grading paper attendance quizzes typical of large classes, I decided to experiment with personal response systems, i.e., “clickers”. More than 80% of the students enrolled already had a clicker registered on their name. The rest could sign up for an online account and participate via smartphones, tablets, or laptops for a small fee.

Initially intended for tracking attendance, the clickers have gradually evolved into a mechanism for evaluating content retention and promoting student engagement. I was compelled to rethink my approach to class delivery and plan more carefully for student engagement. I include clicker questions throughout my class notes to engage students at several points during class. I sometimes include questions from homework assignments or from exams. I encourage students to work in groups to answer clicker questions and I may re-poll the students on a certain concept or technique that is particularly challenging. I give credit for incorrect answers and include questions that ask for students’ opinions.

While clickers have not resulted in higher class attendance (due to the small grade contribution), I feel that classes are now more fun and engaging. The questions have generated more animated discussions, student competition (I can track which major, or group has better attendance or scores; students often go “yeah!” when they answer correctly a difficult question), and a somewhat better exam performance for the more active students (but more data analysis is needed). Student feedback has been positive and I am thus encouraged to use clickers in the future, potentially increasing the contribution of clicker questions and quizzes to about 10% -15% of the final grade.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 26, 2012 10:12 pm

    Very interesting approach–and thank you for sharing your ideas. I wonder if upping the class participation score to 5% would make a difference in attendance. With over 500 students in your class, it is certainly a challenge to get class attendance and participation.

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