Postsecondary Learning

How Faculty Can ‘Click’ Their Way to a More Inclusive Classroom

By Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy     Nov 21, 2018

How Faculty Can ‘Click’ Their Way to a More Inclusive Classroom

What do you think is important for an instructor to do when using classroom response systems (polling software or clickers)? Select all that apply.

A) Choose questions that most students will be able to answer correctly.

B) Vary the types of poll questions beyond multiple choice.

C) Ask students “Please discuss your answer with a neighbor.”

D) Stress that students answer questions independent of their peers.

Classroom response systems (CRS) have a mixed reputation. Studies have suggested that these tools, which allow students to respond in real time to questions provided by an instructor, can improve student learning. But other reports show that is not always the case.

Like many education tools, it depends. And in the case of clickers and other classroom polling software, it largely depends on how instructors are using them. If used thoughtfully, we’ve seen that CRSs can help facilitate active learning in a classroom. What’s more, these tools can be used to also facilitate an inclusive classroom.

What do we mean by an inclusive classroom? Faculty risk excluding certain students and impeding their ability to succeed when they aren’t intentional about design and facilitation. Inclusive course design involves more than choosing content; it also requires considering the number of assessments, opportunities for practice, the chances for students to assess their understanding of material, among other attributes.

With facilitation, inclusiveness comes down to how the instructor moderates discussions in class or online to ensure that all students are heard and all feel welcome to contribute.

CRS technology is a key tool in our inclusive teaching tool kit because it supports multiple opportunities for practice for all students (structured course design) and allows for anonymous participation that doesn’t require “speaking up” (structured facilitation). But using these tools successfully requires careful consideration. Here are a few tips:

Scaffold your questions as class progresses.

A common mistake instructors make when using polls is writing too many easy questions. This is neither helpful for high-achieving students who need an extra challenge nor students who may be under-prepared for college, as asking easy questions may lure them to a false sense of security in their preparedness for future assessments.

It is important that CRS questions mirror questions that might appear on an exam. In our own teaching, we call these “typical test questions” or TTQs. TTQs help students accurately gauge areas they might need to shore up prior to the next assessment and understand the level of depth required to solve a question.

Play with the polls.

Faculty typically default to using polls in a very unidimensional fashion—a multiple choice question with a single correct answer. There are advantages to using this format, particularly if other assessments in the course use also be multiple choice. But it’s worth asking: Who do we leave behind when we don’t vary the format from time to time?

Changing the format of the polls emphasizes that there are multiple ways to demonstrate understanding and can engage learners in different ways. Open-ended text, for example, can allow a shy student to share anonymously to their classmates. Other question types beyond multiple choice include multi-select, open-ended text, up-vote or brainstorm, competition, opinion, metacognitive confidence ratings and data collection.

Give students time to think-pair-share.

The best CRS questions follow a think-pair-share framework. Yet most instructors don’t explicitly ask students to silently think through the question first. What’s the consequence? All students miss an opportunity to make a mistake and learn from that mistake. Introverts might not have time to formulate and contribute their own idea. Or underprepared students might be overconfident in their abilities because others around them shared the correct answers.

Instructors often ask students to pair with their neighbors and “discuss” their answer. This is a great way to build a peer community, but many group discussions sound like this: “I got answer A.” “Yeah, me too.” How do we know? We both teach, a lot, and there is research to support this observation. Researchers who recorded group conversations found that better-quality discussions, where students justified their answers, occurred when the instructor cued students to use reasoning in their discussion.

In our own teaching, we prompt students to explain their answer to a classmate on every CRS question, then usually follow-up with a re-poll. This second poll with the same question allows students to demonstrate what they learned from peers, and instructors can collect more feedback.

Most CRS platforms make it easy to share results with the class. But simply sharing the correct answer skips the opportunity to let students continue constructing knowledge and practice communicating. By varying who reports out to the class, an instructor can boost the confidence of individual students and reduce implicit biases about who is an expert. During the share portion, it’s essential for the instructor to respond to students with language that promotes a growth-mindset, reminding all students that learning is difficult, mistakes are a part of learning, and practice results in improvement.

Finally, make sure the question, answer and reasoning are available to all students to review after class. Providing access to these materials can assist students who were absent, non-native speakers, or students that process information more slowly than others.

Time for a re-poll and reflection: What do you think is important for an instructor to do when using classroom response systems (polling software or clickers)? Select all that apply.

A) Choose questions that most students will be able to answer correctly

B) Vary the types of poll questions beyond multiple choice

C) Ask students “Please discuss your answer with a neighbor.”

D) Stress that students answer questions independent of their peers.

Hopefully you will take a moment to justify the reasoning for your answer. We think B and D are the best choices, and we hope we’ve conveyed our rationale above for not choosing A and C.

How Faculty Can ‘Click’ Their Way to a More Inclusive Classroom

Postsecondary Learning

How Faculty Can ‘Click’ Their Way to a More Inclusive Classroom

By Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy     Nov 21, 2018

How Faculty Can ‘Click’ Their Way to a More Inclusive Classroom

What do you think is important for an instructor to do when using classroom response systems (polling software or clickers)? Select all that apply.

A) Choose questions that most students will be able to answer correctly.

B) Vary the types of poll questions beyond multiple choice.

C) Ask students “Please discuss your answer with a neighbor.”

D) Stress that students answer questions independent of their peers.

Classroom response systems (CRS) have a mixed reputation. Studies have suggested that these tools, which allow students to respond in real time to questions provided by an instructor, can improve student learning. But other reports show that is not always the case.

Like many education tools, it depends. And in the case of clickers and other classroom polling software, it largely depends on how instructors are using them. If used thoughtfully, we’ve seen that CRSs can help facilitate active learning in a classroom. What’s more, these tools can be used to also facilitate an inclusive classroom.

What do we mean by an inclusive classroom? Faculty risk excluding certain students and impeding their ability to succeed when they aren’t intentional about design and facilitation. Inclusive course design involves more than choosing content; it also requires considering the number of assessments, opportunities for practice, the chances for students to assess their understanding of material, among other attributes.

With facilitation, inclusiveness comes down to how the instructor moderates discussions in class or online to ensure that all students are heard and all feel welcome to contribute.

CRS technology is a key tool in our inclusive teaching tool kit because it supports multiple opportunities for practice for all students (structured course design) and allows for anonymous participation that doesn’t require “speaking up” (structured facilitation). But using these tools successfully requires careful consideration. Here are a few tips:

Scaffold your questions as class progresses.

A common mistake instructors make when using polls is writing too many easy questions. This is neither helpful for high-achieving students who need an extra challenge nor students who may be under-prepared for college, as asking easy questions may lure them to a false sense of security in their preparedness for future assessments.

It is important that CRS questions mirror questions that might appear on an exam. In our own teaching, we call these “typical test questions” or TTQs. TTQs help students accurately gauge areas they might need to shore up prior to the next assessment and understand the level of depth required to solve a question.

Play with the polls.

Faculty typically default to using polls in a very unidimensional fashion—a multiple choice question with a single correct answer. There are advantages to using this format, particularly if other assessments in the course use also be multiple choice. But it’s worth asking: Who do we leave behind when we don’t vary the format from time to time?

Changing the format of the polls emphasizes that there are multiple ways to demonstrate understanding and can engage learners in different ways. Open-ended text, for example, can allow a shy student to share anonymously to their classmates. Other question types beyond multiple choice include multi-select, open-ended text, up-vote or brainstorm, competition, opinion, metacognitive confidence ratings and data collection.

Give students time to think-pair-share.

The best CRS questions follow a think-pair-share framework. Yet most instructors don’t explicitly ask students to silently think through the question first. What’s the consequence? All students miss an opportunity to make a mistake and learn from that mistake. Introverts might not have time to formulate and contribute their own idea. Or underprepared students might be overconfident in their abilities because others around them shared the correct answers.

Instructors often ask students to pair with their neighbors and “discuss” their answer. This is a great way to build a peer community, but many group discussions sound like this: “I got answer A.” “Yeah, me too.” How do we know? We both teach, a lot, and there is research to support this observation. Researchers who recorded group conversations found that better-quality discussions, where students justified their answers, occurred when the instructor cued students to use reasoning in their discussion.

In our own teaching, we prompt students to explain their answer to a classmate on every CRS question, then usually follow-up with a re-poll. This second poll with the same question allows students to demonstrate what they learned from peers, and instructors can collect more feedback.

Most CRS platforms make it easy to share results with the class. But simply sharing the correct answer skips the opportunity to let students continue constructing knowledge and practice communicating. By varying who reports out to the class, an instructor can boost the confidence of individual students and reduce implicit biases about who is an expert. During the share portion, it’s essential for the instructor to respond to students with language that promotes a growth-mindset, reminding all students that learning is difficult, mistakes are a part of learning, and practice results in improvement.

Finally, make sure the question, answer and reasoning are available to all students to review after class. Providing access to these materials can assist students who were absent, non-native speakers, or students that process information more slowly than others.

Time for a re-poll and reflection: What do you think is important for an instructor to do when using classroom response systems (polling software or clickers)? Select all that apply.

A) Choose questions that most students will be able to answer correctly

B) Vary the types of poll questions beyond multiple choice

C) Ask students “Please discuss your answer with a neighbor.”

D) Stress that students answer questions independent of their peers.

Hopefully you will take a moment to justify the reasoning for your answer. We think B and D are the best choices, and we hope we’ve conveyed our rationale above for not choosing A and C.

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