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Posts Tagged ‘Hand-Raising’

university speakrers

gazette-logoHand-raising is a quick, cost-effective, time-tested technique for gauging student knowledge and progress, but it may not give an accurate picture of students’ grasp of a subject. A new Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) faculty working paper co-authored by Senior Lecturer Dan Levy, doctoral student Joshua Yardley and Professor Richard Zeckhauser examines the biases and challenges that result from hand-raising and the potential solutions offered by the use of “clickers” in the classroom.

“Since student satisfaction often correlates imperfectly with student learning, it is important to explore the ways in which clickers may impact learning specifically, in addition to the positive reviews they are getting from users,” the authors explain in the paper’s introduction.

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Richard Zeckhauser, Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy (L) and Dan Levy, Senior Lecturer (R) Clickers, the researchers argue, may be beneficial in allowing students to complete the learning process (thinking through their own independent responses to a question) and thus giving teachers a clearer picture of their students’ learning

 

The paper examines the possible benefits of clickers, chief among them anonymity – eliminating the usual “herding” behavior that can result when students are asked to raise their hands. Using a clicker, students are denied the opportunity to mimic other students, and are freed from the embarrassment or peer pressures that would promote certain choices. They can only choose independently.

The researchers conducted experiments in 22 different university classrooms, working with more than 1100 total respondents. Each classroom was divided into two groups: one with hand raising and the other with clickers. The response results differed significantly between the two groups. The hand-raising results were generally more clustered, consistent with the researchers’ theories on herding behavior.

“Those providing erroneous answers love company,” the authors note. But students may also “cluster” toward the responses of their classmates who are known to be knowledgeable about a topic, even if those answers are in the minority. For certain types of questions, the authors found that “clustering with others may also be helpful when there is no single right answer.”

While herding does sometimes push more students toward the correct answer to a question, the students may simply be following the crowd instead of arriving at the correct answer on their own. Clickers, the researchers argue, may be beneficial in allowing students to complete the learning process (thinking through their own independent responses to a question) and thus giving teachers a clearer picture of their students’ learning. Clickers also enable students to comfortably express minority or unpopular political views.

Besides allowing students to engage with questions on their own, clicked responses “can be an important source of feedback for teachers,” the authors explain. Yardley adds, “Clicker data that more accurately reflect student knowledge can help teachers make better informed real-time decisions regarding pacing and focus.” For example, Yardley says, “If clicker data suggest that students understand a particular concept, the teacher moves on, whereas if the data reveal student confusion, the teacher may decide to stay with the topic longer.”

“It seems likely that clicker responses give the teacher a better picture of where the students actually are in understanding a given concept or question,” the authors conclude. The study provides compelling evidence that hand-raising and clicker responses differ significantly from one another, and raises interesting questions about the potential use of both techniques in classrooms of the future.

Dan Levy is senior lecturer in public policy and Faculty Chair of the Kennedy School’s SLATE (Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence) Initiative. He teaches courses in quantitative methods and program evaluation. He recently directed impact evaluations of girl-friendly school construction programs in Burkina Faso and Niger.

Joshua Yardley is a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy at Harvard University, with a focus on research in development economics and education.

Richard Zeckhauser is the Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School. His contributions to decision theory and behavioral economics include the concepts of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), status quo bias, betrayal aversion, and ignorance (states of the world unknown) as a complement to the categories of risk and uncertainty. Many of his policy investigations explore ways to promote the health of human beings, to help markets work more effectively, and to foster informed and appropriate choices by individuals and government agencies.

 

Written By Katie Gibson