Iron Man Typing at keyboard

Student-generated Clicker Questions


Activity aim: to generate discussion or additional questions; to check student understanding of challenging class material

Materials needed: Students will need access to Power Point (or whatever program you use to design clicker questions).

Time: It really depends. Students generate these questions as homework, and you can decide how many of them you’d like to use in class. Some professors take an entire class period to look at student-generated clicker questions (see below); some use a few student-generated questions each time.

Activity Description: This idea comes from Isabel Gauthier, a professor of psychology who wrote this guest blog post on Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching website about how she uses student-generated clicker questions.

Before asking students to generate these question, you might ask them to read a portion of this guide on how to creative effective clicker questions (or make this part of the grading rubric for this assignment — or both!). This can also help students to better understand why you use clicker questions in the first place.

Onto Dr. Gauthier’s description:

“I teach..three days a week. On two of these days each week, I lecture on course material. These lectures are informed by questions about the readings posted online by students and issues that emerge from a hands-on, semester long project I assign my students. On the third day, we use clickers to go through student-generated multiple choice questions.

Each week each student is responsible for turning in a single question on the weeks’ readings. Students use a PowerPoint template to submit their questions which facilitates use of the question in my clicker software, TurningPoint. In the notes area of the slide, each student includes their name, the correct answer, the page(s) that inspired the question, and, optionally, a justification for the correct answer. Before class, I concatenate all the questions in a single file and read them, grading each on a scale of 1 to 5. The grade goes in the notes area, and, in a textbox on the slide, I write comments about the question. This allows me to print the slides as a PDF with student names removed so that all questions and comments can be distributed to students. I then reorder the slides to choose the right mix of questions I want to use in class with the clickers…”

It’s important to keep in mind that writing a good clicker question takes some practice — even for professors! But even questions that are poorly worded or imprecise can serve as good catalysts for discussion and clarification. This is the real aim of this activity.

Image Credit: Shelly S.