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Teaching with Clickers

What are clickers?


“Clicker” is a common term for a wireless hand-held device that encourages instructor-student and student-student interaction during class time.  Clickers are also referred to as classroom response systems, student response systems, and personal response systems. Students use the clickers to respond to multiple-choice, conceptual questions presented by the instructor during class time.

Why should I teach with clickers?




Put simply:

  • Using clickers enhances student learning and interest.  Research shows student grades, accomplishment of learning outcomes, and interest in subject matter all increase when clickers are effectively used, especially in large lecture classes.
  • Using clickers can be coupled with teaching techniques that lead students to read more before coming to class.
  • Using clickers provides immediate feedback to the instructor on whether students are “getting it.”  If they aren’t, then the instructor can present the information in an alternative way to enhance learning, rather than awaiting numerous poor grades on the next exam.
  • Using clickers improves student attendance and participation in class.


Although clickers can be used in a variety of ways in classes of all types and sizes, they were designed to support teaching methods that are proven to enhance learning success in large-enrollment, primarily lecture courses.  Research shows that fewer than half of 18-25 year olds learn effectively by passively listening to a lecture.  Instead, most people learn by actively engaging critical concepts, applying those concepts, and confronting their misconceptions about the subject matter.  These actions are effectively done in large lecture settings by breaking up lecture time with “clicker questions.”  Students respond to these questions as a way of gauging conceptual understanding of key ideas, with immediate feedback to both instructor and students on whether this understanding was mastered.  More importantly, students use the varied answers to a clicker question as a basis for discussion with their neighbors:  Which answer is right and how do we know?  This short period of discussion changes the quiet, passive-learning lecture hall, into an energetic, active-learning environment that engages students to construct knowledge through questioning and persuasive discussion with classmates.  Student learning is then reassessed by having students reanswer the same question.  This teaching method, called peer instruction, is one of the most effective uses of clickers.

It is also critical that you consider adjusting your teaching style to effectively accommodate clicker questions.  You should answer these questions before proceeding with clickers: Are you comfortable with an active classroom environment? Is enhancement of interactive teaching and learning your main reason for using clickers? Are you willing to shift your lecture plan in response to students' responses to a clicker question?

Can I use clickers to grade students?

Individual student responses to clicker questions are recorded by the clicker software and can be used to grade student progress.  Recording grades on clicker questions can provide an incentive for students to attend and participate in class.  However, the learning process is enhanced when students are not overly anxious to participate, so low-stakes grading is advised.  If desired, clicker grades can be uploaded into the WebCT-Vista gradebook so that students can track their progress in a web-enhanced course.  Some instructors prefer to have students respond anonymously to reduce student anxiety about wrong answers.

What clicker system is used at UNM?


UNM has a preferred vendor agreement with iClicker.  By using iClicker, instructors help to decrease student expenses (including student ability to resell and buy used devices at the UNM Bookstore) and will enjoy the benefits of on-campus technical support (by ITS) and workshop training (by OSET).

iClicker is a radio-frequency system that uses a single, small, portable receiver collects responses from more than 1000 students virtually instantaneously.  iClicker can be used in any classroom on campus.  The iClicker program (Windows and Mac compatible) works independently of any program running on the instructor’s computer, permitting use of questions developed in another clicker program and easy development of new questions.  No software installation is required.

Click here to connect to the iClicker website for more information about the iClicker product.

Click here for more information on how iClicker was selected as the UNM preferred vendor.

How do I learn more about teaching with clickers?

Attend an OSET workshop on “Teaching with Clickers.”

How do I start using iClicker?

Students purchase their iClicker radio-frequency, wireless transmitter at the UNM Bookstore.  Write “iClicker clickers” in the text-title block of your textbook order, along with ISBN 0-7167-7939-0.  After book orders are processed by the Bookstore, instructors will be contacted by Media Technology Services (MTS) about receiving an instructor’s kit (which includes software that executes on a USB device, receiver, and two clickers).  Instructors may also opt to checkout iClicker-ready notebook PC’s and iClicker receivers from MTS to use in their classroom.
If you have not used clickers previously, you are strongly encouraged to attend an OSET workshop or to contact OSET (oset@unm.edu) for suggestions and guidance.  iClicker is simple and easy to use (See the Quick Start Guide)
These links may help you to use iClicker:

If you ecounter problems using iClicker, please contact iClicker technical support
( or toll free: 1-866-209-5698) or post your question on FastInfo