Types of Questions
Many instructors see multiple-choice questions as limited to testing students’ recall of facts. However, multiple-choice clicker questions can actually serve many other purposes in the class, including assessing students’ higher-order thinking skills. Since clicker questions can be used not only to assess students but to engage them, some very effective clicker questions are quite different than multiple-choice questions that might appear on exams.
Here are a few types of clicker questions.
Recall Questions: These questions ask students to recall facts, concepts, or techniques relevant to class. They are often used to see if students did the reading, remember important points from prior classes, or have memorized key facts. They rarely generate discussion, however, and don’t require higher-order thinking skills.
Conceptual Understanding Questions: These questions go beyond recall and assess students’ understanding of important concepts. Answer choices to these questions are often based on common student misconceptions, and so these questions work well to help instructors identify and address their students’ misconceptions. Questions asking students to classify examples, match characteristics with concepts, select the best explanation for a concept, or translate among different ways of representing an idea are examples of conceptual understanding questions.
Application Questions: These questions require students to apply their knowledge and understanding to particular situations and contexts. Application questions often ask students to make a decision or choice in a given scenario, connect course content to “real-world” situations, implement procedures or techniques, or predict the outcome of experiments or even their peers’ response to a subsequent question.
Critical Thinking Questions: These questions operate at the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, requiring students to analyze relationships among multiple concepts or make evaluations based on particular criteria. Often these questions are “one-best-answer questions,” questions that include multiple answer choices that have merit. Students are asked to select the one best answer from these choices. One-best-answer questions aren’t appropriate for exams, since the reasons students provide for or against answer choices are of more interest than their particular answer selections. However, these questions can be very effective in preparing students to engage in class discussions about their reasons.
Student Perspective Questions: These are questions that ask students to share their opinions, experiences, or demographic information. These questions do not have correct answers, but by surfacing the various perspectives of students in a class, they can help both instructors and students better understand those perspectives. They can often generate rich discussion, particularly questions about ethical, legal, or moral issues. They can also help students connect their personal experiences to more abstract course content. The anonymity that clickers provide is often an essential ingredient in asking these kinds of questions.
Confidence Level Questions: Asking students a content question, then following that by asking students to rate their confidence in their answers (high, medium, or low) can enhance the usefulness of information on student learning provided by the first question. Prompting students to assess their confidence can also aid in metacognition–learning about one’s own learning. Instructors can also ask “predictive” confidence level questions by asking students how confident they are that they could correctly answer some question or accomplish some task in which they have not yet engaged.
Monitoring Questions: These are questions designed to provide instructors with information about how their students are approaching the learning process in their courses. For instance, one week before a paper assignment is due, instructors might ask students whether or not they have completed rough drafts as a way to gauge their progress. Asking students how long they took to complete an assignment they have just turned in can provide instructors with useful information about the difficulty of the assignment. Clicker questions can also be used to see if students remember good advice or course policies shared on a first-day-of-class course syllabus. The questions that appear on end-of-semester course evaluations also make useful monitoring questions at the midpoint of the semester.
Classroom Experiments: Classroom response systems can also be used to collect data from students for classroom experiments often used in the social sciences. Often data generated by students during class can be used to make points about social behavior. By allowing these data to be collected and analyzed during class, clickers can bring a sense of immediacy and relevance to these kinds of experiments.