Innovative Practices Spotlight

CAE Innovative Practices Spotlight


Dr. Andrew Bland, Assistant Professor, Psychology

The Center for Academic Excellence is recognizing a faculty member each month in the CAE Innovative Practices Spotlight to highlight his or her innovative classroom practices and outstanding contribution to Millersville University.

Dr. Andrew Bland is being recognized in December for his exceptional use of i-Clicker/Reef as a classroom response system in his Psychology courses!

Please continue reading to learn more about Dr. Bland's exciting experience and to learn ways to incorporate innovative practices into your classroom…

1. What innovative practice did you incorporate into your classroom?

i-Clicker/Reef classroom response system

2. When did you implement the new practice into your classroom?

I began using clickers in my PSYC 100 (General Psychology) course during Fall 2014.  Based on the positive feedback I received from the students, I opted to resume their use when I instructed the course again this semester (Fall 2015).

3. Did the students willingly accept the use of the new practice? What were the reactions of the students?

In my course evaluations both last fall and this semester, students have expressed appreciation for the "hands on" review sessions.  In essence, I pose a multiple choice question to the students on the projector, who use the clickers to "call in" their responses.  I then present the distribution of responses on the screen.  In cases in which there is a toss-up between two or more response choices, I call on students who selected each choice to provide rationales for their responses.  Thereafter, I walk the students through an explanation for why the correct response is so, often incorporating study and test-taking strategies into my commentary.

4. How has the use of the new practice positively affected the classroom-learning environment?

First and foremost, almost all the students are actively engaged--including those who tend to hold back during large group discussions.  (More below, in response to #5.)  In addition, the clicker technology makes it easy to insert a brief review session of previous material at the conclusion of a class meeting.  This repetition and distributed practice helps ensure that the material remains fresh on students' minds, especially as we roll quickly through about a chapter per week of highly diverse, concept-heavy material in an introductory course.  It also provides opportunities for me to help the students build connections between old material and new material, which can be difficult for novice students to easily recognize.  Furthermore, it provides me an opportunity to frequently assess/reassess students' understanding of key concepts and to provide clarification as appropriate.

5. How has the use of the new practice affected student engagement in the classroom and the level of participation?

To continue my statement above, the anonymity provided by the clickers has helped many students become more comfortable demonstrating what they know--and not holding back out of fear of consequence, including ostracization by their peers.  I have observed that, over time, this has reciprocated into a better sense of motivation on everyone's part to perform to the best of their abilities.  

6. What challenges did you encounter when you were implementing the new practice?

The Reef program enables students to participate in clicker sessions using any model i-Clicker (i.e. "i-Clicker," "i-Clicker +," or "i-Clicker 2") or using an i-Clicker app on their cell phones.  The latter has served as a cheaper alternative for students who cannot easily afford a "hard copy" clicker.  While it has worked most of the time, Wi-Fi issues have been an issue on occasion.  As a back-up, I encourage students who are in doubt about their connection to write out their responses by hand and submit the paper for credit.

7. How did attending a CAE Professional Development or Information Technology session contribute to your learning and use of the innovative practice?

I had heard of i-Clickers prior to coming to Millersville last year but I had not actually used them.  Instead, I had utilized response cards when I taught at previous colleges, which were moderately effective but did lend themselves to the social comparison problem I noted above.  It was Josh Fleming's presentation on classroom response systems during New Faculty Orientation last year that prompted me to give clickers a shot.  I am grateful to Josh for providing guidance in how to successfully implement the i-clicker/Reef system, and then inviting me to share my experiences with other faculty at a CAE workshop (as well as the "Lancaster Learns" conference) last year.