Saturday, January 24, 2009

Assessment Case Study Idea

This year I have been using a student response system (SRS) to give quizzes to my students each Friday. The SRS set that I have is made by einstruction. I have been fairly pleased with the performance of the system. The hardware works great. The software is a bit quirky. 

The SRS software loads into MS PowerPoint where I create multiple choice quizzes. I then project the PowerPoint slides onto the screen in my classroom and a special toolbar appears at the bottom which interacts with the clickers assigned to each student. The neat thing about the system is that it provides instant feedback to students. As soon as each 45 second question ends the number of responses for each answer pops up. 

After the quiz, the SRS software can generate several different reports including customized study guides and instructor summaries. I print the study guides for my students and they use them to study for their tests. 

The initial response of my students to this system was extremely enthusiastic. They loved it! It brought new life to quiz taking. I used the system all during first semester and have continued this semester. The enthusiasm for the clicker quizzes has cooled considerably, however. 

After several students requested to take paper versions of the quiz instead of using the clickers, I began offering this option to all of my students. Those who preferred paper quizzes said that they didn't like the time limit for each question and had trouble focusing in the noise of the classroom. Because of this request, I now begin by asking if anyone would prefer to take a paper version (the questions are all the same) of the quiz instead of using the clickers. 

This week, about half of my students decided to take the paper version of the quiz instead of using the clickers. What shocked me was that 95% of the students that chose the paper version were girls! I was amazed to see that nearly all of the guys in my class wanted to take the clicker quiz and nearly all the girls preferred the paper quiz!
After noticing this odd reality, I decided to conduct some additional research. Here are the three questions that I would like to answer. 

  1. Does the delivery method of a quiz (paper vs. clicker) have an affect on student performance?
  2. Do girls do better on paper quizzes than clicker quizzes? 
  3. Do guys do better on clicker quizzes than paper quizzes? 

During my next quiz I will ask all of my students to take both the clicker quiz and the paper quiz (I will disable the option of showing the correct answer at the end of each question when using the clickers). I will compile the quiz scores into the following groups: 

1. All students
2. Girls taking clicker quizzes
3. Girls taking paper quizzes
4. Guys taking clicker quizzes
5. Guys taking paper quizzes

As I analyze the data I will be looking for a relationship between the quiz delivery method and student performance. 

I realize that this is not a perfectly controlled experiment and that there are inherent flaws in my methodology (such as the fact that the quiz will be taken twice and the familiarity with the questions may affect student performance). The small sample size of my experiment will also lesson the impact of the results, however I hope that my trial will spark thought and debate on the learning differences and needs of students and on the effectiveness of SRS systems.


  1. Did you end up implementing this idea? If so, what were the results? There hasn't been much research conducted on clickers and gender at the college level, so I found your observation and assessment idea interesting.

  2. I recorded the grades of my students as they took paper and clicker quizzes. The results were very close. The grades on the paper quiz appear to be slightly higher (less than 1 point), but I have not statistically analyzed the data to see if it is significant.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I plan to give this article to my daughter's science teacher who uses these. She usually earns an A, but since the "clicker" quizzes started, she's dropped to a B. She said she hates these quizzes because they're too stressful. Stephanie


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