Students demand: “More clicker questions!”

In my IBL-flipped hybrid complex analysis class, we finished the “flipped” portion (and the entire textbook) in half of the semester. We spent the next quarter of the semester finishing IBL presentations.

I asked what they wanted to do for the remainder of the semester. They said “more clicker questions” (they also requested time to work on problems in class, including application problems). This is what we have been doing.

After starting class working through some of their homework problems, I asked how the class wanted to spend the last 30 minutes of class—I had both clicker questions and some new problems to work on. We found that 79% of the students wanted clicker questions (clickers are nice for a variety of reasons). We did a couple, and the remaining questions start a new theme, so I decided to stop with clicker questions for the day so we could work on some of the problems.

That was a mistake. They were mad. Okay, not mad, but they really wanted more questions. So we did them for the remainder of class.

I asked why they had such a preference for clicker questions, they gave two answers:

  1. It is too easy to get stuck on the problems that I have been giving (I have been giving them trickier proofs, since this is their third time through the material).
  2. The clicker questions really help them learn.

I was really happy to hear that.

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4 Responses to “Students demand: “More clicker questions!””

  1. Hitchman Says:

    I am glad that this bit of technology is helping, but…

    I worry. At some point they will have to develop perseverance and patience. Math doesn’t happen quickly.

    But those clickers are like little positive feedback machines. Students like immediate feedback–and generally this is good–but to develop independence, they will have to learn to pause and evaluate their own work.

    I wonder if they would like the clickers as much if you shared that with them.

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Hi Theron,

      I appreciate you concerns; I have the same goals. Here is my defense of my students:

      The students went through an IBL portion of class where they had to solve problems and present them. This accounts for almost half of the days of class. They already demonstrated that they can be patient and persevere. The clicker questions DO take time. I have been asking them really tough ones lately, and we have only been able to get through about 3 per 70 minute class. Most of that time is spent on peer discussion, so they are working on their own (at least, in teams). Part of the problem is my fault. I agree that it takes time to do mathematics, and I think that I have been misjudging how long it takes them to solve the problems I have been giving. I have been giving them 30 minutes to work on a problem in class, and the students get frustrated because they know they need more than 30 minutes. Solution? Turn it into a homework problem. We are in the middle of reviewing for the final, and I think that students are looking for the quickest return on their time at this point, which I think is reasonable.

      The last several “lectures” have been a great success, since the clickers (actually, “peer instruction;” I shouldn’t refer to the technology, since the pedagogy is what is important) has rooted out some stubborn misconceptions that the students have (e.g. for contour integrals, you integrate over the curve AND the interior). The students recognize that, and I am happy to see that they are recognizing the growth, too.

      I agree with you in general. However, I think that there is not a huge reason to worry about this particular class. Bret

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