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Clicker classes come to Lehigh

Greg Reihman, director of faculty development at Lehigh

Beginning with Fall ’06 semester, first-year students in several classes in the College of Arts and Sciences will be using new Clicker technology to communicate with their professors and provide instantaneous audience feedback in the classroom.

Introductory courses in physics, chemistry and psychology will include Clicker technology, according to Greg Reihman, director of faculty development at Lehigh.

The use of Clicker technology is an outgrowth of the university’s Innovations in Teaching Large Lecture Introductory Courses project, or ITaLLIC, a new Lehigh Lab initiative launched during the Spring ’06 semester to address the particular challenges of engaging students in large classroom settings. The ITaLLIC project is sponsored by faculty development and Library and Technology Services.

"Faculty who teach large lecture courses know even the best lecturers face challenges related to the sheer number of students in the classroom,” Reihman says. “The goal of this seminar was to bring faculty together to explore a wide range of pedagogical, technological, and course design solutions to specific challenges that they identified in the courses they are teaching."

In a class that uses Clickers, students bring the devices, which are slightly larger than a credit card, to their lectures and then respond to questions posed by the faculty. The Clickers work by feeding student responses directly to the professor’s computer through infrared or radio signals. Advanced software allows the results to be instantaneously compiled, organized and displayed, which contributes to a livelier, more participatory learning experience for the students.

LTS has elected to use the TurningPoint clicker system, which students will be able to purchase through the bookstore, Reihman says.

By using Clickers, faculty can quickly gain insight into levels of student understanding, Reihman says. In an instant, they can gauge comprehension and decide whether to review material or move forward, depending on the class response. They could also poll students to discover the range of opinions on some topic and then build their lecture around the students' viewpoints.

"The pedagogical promise of clickers is twofold: we hope professors will become more attuned to the students in their class and students will become more engaged in the material,” Reihman says.

"Used well, this tool helps make the lecture more dynamic and responsive to the students in the classroom. Faculty who have used Clickers have found an increase in attendance, participation, preparation and performance. We hope to see these results in our fall pilot."

Faculty who will be using the clickers as part of this new pilot include Gary DeLeo, professor of physics; Diane Hyland, professor of psychology; and Natalie Foster, professor of chemistry.

Greater sense of ownership in the learning process

DeLeo said that although he’s never used Clickers before, he’s excited about incorporating them into Introductory Physics I course (Physics 11) and discovering possibilities for enhanced student learning experiences.

“People tend to become mentally passive in a lecture setting,” he says, “and I believe that the addition of questions requiring Clicker participation will raise the level of student attention, and give them a sense of involvement in and ownership of the learning experience. In addition, it will help me to assess the state of student understanding so that I can adjust accordingly during the lecture.”

Earlier versions of this technology have been employed in the Lehigh classroom, Reihman said, citing courses taught by David Anastasio, associate professor of earth and environmental science; David Myers, professor of practice in finance and law; and Jacob Kazakia, professor of mechanical engineering.

Other Lehigh faculty and staff members who participated in the ITaLLIC project faculty seminar included Hyland, DeLeo, Jerome Licini, associate professor of physics; Chuck Smith, professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics; Bob Giambatista, assistant professor of marketing; Ed Gallagher, professor of English and Lehigh Lab Faculty Fellow; Sherri Yerk-Zwick, instructional technology team leader in LTS; Judd Hark, instructional technologist for CAS; Robin Deily, LTS team leader for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science; and Jason Slipp, instructional technologist for CBE. Judd Hark is managing the evaluation and implementation of the Clickers systems.

Faculty interested in the use of Clickers in their classes, or in the ITaLLIC project, should e-mail Greg Reihman, director of faculty development, or give him a call at (610) 758-6840.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006

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