Five thousand Western students have a new learning tool tucked into their backpacks. It is a wireless device that looks a lot like a TV remote. But these ‘clickers’ are helping Western professors engage their students in the classroom – especially large ones – at a level not previously possible.
Tom Haffie coordinates the University’s Personal Response Support System project, PRESSWestern, with support from a Fellowship in Teaching Innovation. In his first-year biology class, he asks a multiple-choice question. His 700 students respond by pressing the appropriate button on their clickers. Within seconds, the distribution of answers appears as a graph on the screen at the front of the classroom.
“The clickers are used to make the lecture more interactive. Even the student sitting up in the rafters, who can’t see my face, is involved,” says Haffie. “PRESSWestern also provides instant feedback – for both my students and me. They get a sense of where they sit in relation to their peers and I know if they’ve grasped an idea or if it needs to be explored further.”
Western is leading the way in the implementation of clickers. It is the first Canadian university to adopt the teaching innovation campus-wide.