So long clicker participation pointsPosted: August 19, 2011
I use clickers in all my “lecture”-based courses, with enrollments in these courses ranging from 10-36. I have offered participation marks to students for answering at least a certain percentage of the clicker questions in a given class. At first I was giving out 5% of their total mark, then 2%, and now it looks like I’m doing away with those marks completely.
I have never really liked the idea of giving marks for attendance (even though that is basically what I was doing). I was following the common advice that I had encountered from places such as CWSEI’s Clicker Resource Guide and other folks who have used clickers a lot. And it seemed reasonable to me. My classes are very interactive and there are students that might otherwise try to zone out or not show up, and I always try my best to help the bottom quartile succeed. But this sort of practice raises all sort of issues with external motivators. Of course I give tons of marks to students for doing their pre-class reading/screencast viewing assignments so I am not above giving participation marks to students for doing things which I think will help them learn.
When giving clicker participation marks I have always allowed students 3-4 free days that they can miss or not participate, and not be penalized. But I always end up with a few students that want exceptions above and beyond these free days. Doing away with the clicker participation points also does away with this hassle.
The last thing that it accomplishes is that I hope it will reduce guessing on clicker questions. With the clicker questions not being worth any marks, I can ask students not to randomly guess and only answer a question if they have some reason to believe the answer they are choosing. Back in January Peter Newbury talked about how, due to student guessing, you can overestimate how many people actually got a given clicker question correct. Without the participation points, students can feel that they won’t be penalized for not answering a question, which I hope will reduce the guessing effect. Of course another way to get at the guessing effect is to, every so often, ask them a clicker question about how confident they were in their answer, and to have “Randomly guessed” be one of the options.
I have enough data to know what sort of participation level to expect in my own courses with the clicker participation marks being dangled in front of the students. So I will be able to compare the participation level between using clicker participation marks and not after the fact. Of course these numbers will be convoluted with my slowly improving ability to generate student buy-in, but I will at worst be able to tell if participation went down.
So long clicker participation points, I hope I never feel the need to use you again.