The Potential for Student Engagement Using Clickers in a Large Introductory Class

The Potential for Student Engagement Using Clickers in a Large Introductory Class

Jenepher Lennox Terrion (University of Ottawa, Canada) and Victoria Aceti (University of Ottawa, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-869-2.ch009
OnDemand PDF Download:
No Current Special Offers


This pilot project employed personal response systems, or clicker technology, in an effort to address student inattention and the distractions created by electronics in a large, first-year introductory communication class. The objectives of the project were to increase student engagement through a more hands-on, active and collaborative learning environment and to better gauge student understanding of important concepts throughout the lecture. This case discusses the challenges of student engagement, in particular with today’s millennial students, examines the role of technology generally in engaging students and the personal response systems specifically, describes the pilot project and presents a series of exercises that may be used to most effectively take advantage of this technology in the classroom.
Chapter Preview


Engaging students has become more of a challenge than ever. Students (and faculty members) perceive themselves as part of an increasingly fast-paced world where multi-tasking and information overload are the norm. Today’s students, called millennials by Strauss and Howe (2000, 2003), noted authorities on generational identities and behaviors, were born in 1982 or later and are the first university cohort to have grown up with the internet, the cell phone, and a host of instant-communication and social networking technologies. As a generation, millennials are constantly wired and connected to their friends, their media and the internet through their cell phones, MP3 players, and laptops. Jones (2002), in his study of the impact of internet use of college students’ daily lives and academic and social routines, found that 72% of all students check their email daily, and 26% of college students use instant messaging on an average day. A 2008 survey reported that 87% of American adults in the 18-29 age range participated in online activities (Pew Internet Project, 2008). These data show that university and college classrooms are made up of participants who are likely in a constant state of distraction -- playing on laptops, watching videos on Youtube, communicating with friends on various hand-held technologies and checking their Facebook pages (Rice & Bunz, 2006). These distracting behaviors interfere with both the student’s own ability to attend to and understand the course material as well as that of his or her peers sitting nearby, and is likely to have a negative impact on student engagement.

What is Student Engagement?

Student engagement is understood to mean “the time and energy students devote to educationally sound activities inside and outside of the classroom, and the policies and practices that institutions use to induce students to take part in these activities” (Kuh, 2003, p. 25). It is clear from this definition that if they want their students to invest time in their classes, instructors must find ways to maintain the interest and attention of students, and that students need to be involved in meaningful, participatory classroom practices in what Coates (2005) calls the “joint proposition” of learning. Research shows that student engagement is among the better predictors of learning and personal development (Carini, Kuh, & Klein, 2006) and thus is critical to the academic achievement and retention of post-secondary students (Kuh, 2003).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: