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Physics Majors on Why Clicker Qns are Helpful

September 25, 2016

In QM, by far the most common thing that students said for what was helpful was clicker questions. Below are upper division students’ responses to why clicker questions are helpful.

Students’ responses touched upon important themes about learning such as active processing (i.e. force me to think), self-assessment (test our understanding), meta-cognition (i.e., see what I know), and proximal feedback (wrong understanding gets corrected in the moment).

“It gives us some time to process what we’ve learned rather than just write it down and hope we understand our notes later.”

” I feel like it helps sink things in we’ve talked about.”

“They usually contain questions that really test our understading of the material. They are also a good tool for us to identify our weak areas and what we need to work on.”

“It is nice to see what I know and/or can deduce from what we are going over in class.

“They tend to be helpful in checking my understanding conceptually of what is going on.”

“Knowing that they’re going to happen forces me to come to class prepared to think, which helps me focus more intently while you are lecturing. Also, having to explain our reasoning has forced me to think deeply”

“Are very helpful because it forces us to take a breather and actually process what you just told us/ what we just wrote down. “

“They are very helpful in that they give me time to stop and make sure I truly understand what I’ve been watching be presented. The class leaves me feeling challenged and engaged. “

“I find it helpful since it forces a question/problem that makes you actually think and apply the material instead of just going into a note taking mode. It also helps if your understanding is wrong, because at that moment it’s corrected. “

Other helpful things

In addition to clicker questions students’ mentioned other things that were helpful, that touch upon important educational themes such as “making connections to prior knowledge”, “relational vs instrumental knowledge”, and “multiple representations”, “multiple encounters”.

Students brought up things like:

– Making connections / analogies to things we already know.

“In class, if we relate a new topic to an old one with which we are more familiar (like between the Schrodinger Equation and N2L) it helps my understanding of what we are doing.”

– Focusing on what is physically / conceptually going on (not just mathematically)

“I am greatly appreciative that you do your best to give us conceptual understandings for the material.   Having that conceptual knowledge to start from, it gives me a basis to understand the rest of the material.  “

– Emphasizing visualization.

“I find the visual representations very useful for learning (even though its not easy to do for quantum mechanics).”

– Articulating Learning (Goals)

“It does not always happen, but some days you tell us to write down something new that we learned. I have gotten into the habit of doing this at the end of each class, as well as a question or two that I may still have. This has proven to be beneficial.”

“I like that we start the class with a quick summary of the day’s material that will be covered. ” 

Feedback is for Me and for Students

Part of why I ask for feedback is to actually get feedback from students’, and to make adjustments. This semester with my QM students I am making adjustments to homework grading, how I articulate to students’ the reasons why we are doing a particular example problem, and how often and when I pause to give them time to write down thoughts from a discussion, among other things.

But asking for feedback, gets them to articulate things about their own learning. It is always the case that students’ (collectively) responses touch upon sooooo many important things about teaching/learning. When people ask me how to get students to “buy-in” to active learning,  my responses is always, “give them an opportunity to articulate things about learning” and help them to see how your class to organized to do those very things.

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