Seamless Constructive Alignment? The use of ‘Clickers’ as a learning activity aligned to an end of module MCQ online assessment.

By Julie Dunne. School of Food Science and Environmental Health
I was interested in incorporating ‘Clickers’ quizzes as a learning and revision tool for a group of first year organic chemistry students. The module was delivered in semester two to 33 students in an Environmental Health BSc. degree. In previous years it has been taught through examples followed by in class active learning exercises, and therefore I would consider it to have been a student centered active learning experience even before the introduction of ‘Clickers’ quizzes. The module has been assessed for the last three years through an online end of module MCQ quiz with integrated feedback. I was interested in determining the effect of introducing ‘Clickers’ MCQ in-class quizzes on student engagement and performance, and also specifically on their perception of it as a preparation tool for the aligned MCQ assessment.
An MCQ ‘Clickers’ quiz was developed for each broad topic (six altogether) and the questions resembled those found in the assessment. As for all MCQ quizzes, the success lies in the quality of the distracter wrong answers. These were developed based on common mistakes made by students, as evidenced by previous exams and assessments. The quiz formed part of the in class activities for each topic, and was normally run towards the end of the topic, when students had built a foundation in the area. Feedback was given after the results of each question survey was displayed , but before the ‘big reveal’ of the correct answer. This feedback hinted towards the merits of each answer, and aimed to help students determine themselves which was correct by carefully examining each choice, and eliminating wrong answers.
Student evaluation was through an online questionnaire, and was completed by all students in the module directly following their end of module assessment.
The results from this evaluation demonstrate an extremely positive attitude to ‘Clickers’ by students. They believed they were more interested and focussed (engaged) during the quizzes, and even more motivated to get the answer correct, compared to other in-class activities. They found they feedback given during the quizzes helped them understand where they were going wrong. They also thought it was useful to see how they were performing compared to their peers. Finally, they strongly believed that the ‘Clickers’ quizzes had been an appropriate tool to prepare and revise for the end of module assessment. In addition, in an open question, several of the students cited ‘Clickers’ as being one of the best features of the module. Comments included the benefit the quizzes and the feedback had in determining where they were going wrong, but also they were popular because they were fun and interactive.
Nonetheless, a comparison of the grades attained with and without ‘Clickers’ quizzes does not show a significant increase in student achievement. However, this may not be the case if ‘Clickers’ were introduced to a more traditional lecture based teaching model.
In conclusion, ‘Clickers’ quizzes have been introduced to a first year organic chemistry module as a teaching and revision tool. This has resulted in a more interactive, engaged and fun learning environment. Students have benefitted from timely feedback and felt more prepared for the aligned MCQ online end of module assessment.

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About Muireann O'Keeffe

I am an educational developer currently working at DCU. I have a passion for researching and evaluating technology that can support and enhance learning. In the past I have taught on Masters programmes (Msc Applied elearning & Postgraduate Diploma in Third level Learning and Teaching) as well as Leadership development programmes.
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