Personal Response Systems

PRS Teaching Tips

Developing Questions

Personal Response Systems are best used to test higher level understanding rather than factual recall.  The more thought-provoking the question, the greater the value PRSs can have in stimulating discussion and assessing comprehension.  Here are some suggestions:

Use PRS Questions As A Tool For Peer Learning

You might ask a question and have students discuss their answers with each other before polling them.  To use this process more intentionally, you might ask a question, poll the class, and, after displaying the results, have students with differing opinions debate with one another. Then you can repoll the class.

Ask Questions That Address Misconceptions

Include common misunderstandings in your response options. Asking students to discuss the answers with each other can be a good way to challenge them to develop their reasoning.  This can be useful even when students know the correct answer, but it concerns a concept which is difficult to explain and the ability to articulate it is central learning goal.

Ask Formative Questions

Assess background knowledge before beginning a topic, to be better prepared to address what students will need to know and to help them track their own progress. Questions that require students to predict the outcome of an experiment or demonstration can offer an insightful test of their intuition.

Ask Questions That Involve Application Of Knowledge

Ask students to apply a concept they have learned to a new situation, or relate it to a new concept as it is introduced. Have them choose among interpretations of a case study or the results of a laboratory experiment.

Ask Questions That Build Trust And Community

Questions can be used as ice-breakers to help students get to know each other.  Sharing opinions anonymously can also be a helpful way to open discussion of a difficult or controversial topic, as students discover they are not alone in holding what they perceived as an unpopular opinion.

Use Questions To Review Content

Questions that call for review of a reading assignment or work completed outside class can be a useful means of gathering attention at the start of class and serve as a means of taking attendance.  It can also help an instructor use class time more efficiently, by revealing points that may need further explanation.

Use Questions Sparingly

Instructors report asking on average no more than 5, and frequently just 2 to 3, questions during a 50-minute class. Overuse can lead to student disengagement.

Keep The Wording Of Questions Simple

Questions should be easy to read. The reasoning the questions require can be quite complex, but the wording should be straightforward.

Leave Enough Time For Responses

Give students enough time to consider a question before closing the polling time period. You can configure in advance, or change on the fly, the amount of time students have to respond.

Administering Questions

PRS Challenges

  • Using PRS questions may cause you to cover less material during class time. Keep this in mind in your course planning. You may choose to compensate for decreased coverage of material through independent assignments given prior to or following the class.
  • Asking thought-provoking questions may encourage you to alter the flow of your course. Be open to this possibility. However, if you find it difficult to change your course presentation on the fly, you could use the feedback to modify future presentations.

For more information, see the Clicker Resouce Guide from the Science Education Initiative at the University of Colorado and the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia.

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