Formative Assessments with the iClicker student app

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The iClicker student app is a great tool for formative and summative assessments.  In this article, I will summarize the ways I use the different question types in order to conduct various types of (non-content related) formative assessments. 


Multiple Choice:


1.  Student Understanding


How well do you feel you understand  ____ ?

A.  Piece of cake.  I get it.

B.  I understand most of it.

C.  I am mostly confused.

D.  I do not understand any of it.


2.  Student Confidence:  Many times, it is informative to find out how confident students are with their problem solving skills.  Ideally, students who understand should not only have the correct answers, but also be confident in their answers.


Select the most appropriate choice.

A.  I'm finished and am confident I am correct.

B.  I'm finished, but not too sure I am correct.

C.  I'm almost finished.

D.  I don't know how to do the problem.



3.  Traffic Control: During lectures, it is often very difficult to get any feedback on how students are processing the classroom discussions.  For lecture classes, it is useful to periodically stop and let students give feedback on class pacing - then follow up with specific questions on their misunderstandings.


Select the most appropriate choice.

A.  GO: Continue. Pace is fine, I understand.

B.  CAUTION: Please slow down. I need time to catch up.

C.  STOP: I do not understand.


Short Answer

4.  Question Collector

 After one particularly difficult problem on simplifying rational expressions, I asked students what the most difficult step was for them.  No one spoke - even though most students got the problem wrong.  I then fired up a short answer question in the iClicker student app and asked for submissions electronically - almost everyone gave me a response!


I noticed two things from their responses, many people did not know how to find the LCD and secondly, many students were simply trying to memorize steps to problems.  This brought us to a nice discussion on learning, and how I am teaching them tools they can use when encountering problems.  


5.  Muddiest Point

Another way to use the short answer question type is to collect a list of the most difficult topics (muddiest points).



6.  Speed Drill Progress

Numeric questions can be used to gauge student progress in paper assignments.  I often drill students on various topics and have them answer using paper and pencil, since the iClicker student app's refresh time is too slow.  I often ask students to send me the number of questions they got correct.  


7.  Level of Understanding 

Like measuring student confidence, instructors could ask students to state their level of understanding of a concept or unit on a 0 (do not understand) - 10 (understand everything) scale.



8. Campus resources: 

During the first week of classes, it might be a good idea to use target questions to ensure students know the locations of important student resources: Tutoring Center, Instructor Offices, Financial Aid Office, Registrar, Counselors, etc. by asking students to locate the resources on a map.


I hope that you can see many ways the iClicker student app can be used in addition to testing student understanding of core concepts and facts.  Do you use iClicker or another classroom response system (CRS) in your classes?  In what other ways have you used your CRS to conduct formative assessments in class?  Please share your ideas in the comments box below.

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About the Author
Brandon Tenn earned his Bachelor's of Science degree in Math and Chemistry from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa in 2001 and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Davis in 2009. Between 2006 and 2010 he taught at both Sierra College and the California Maritime Academy. Since 2011 he has taught math and chemistry at Merced College. He is very interested in teaching developmental and introductory science and math courses utilizing an active learning approach. He has flipped every math and chemistry course he taught since Spring 2015 and continues to research best practices for the technique based on his target student populations.