Also known as Student Response Systems or Classroom Response Systems, Clickers are a great way for educators to pose questions to students in large or small lecture settings using a specialized PowerPoint presentation. To answer questions, students press specific buttons on what resembles a mini remote control. Clicker devices are wireless, sending responses using infrared or radio signals to the receiver on the computer. Once received, responses are displayed for both students and educators to view. Educators can then quickly analyze student responses, as well as save data for later viewing. Clickers can be registered to students to track the response of each student, if the educator chooses, or can remain anonymous.

Students actively using Clickers

Related Theory

The use of Clickers greatly resembles the Cognitive Theory's approach to learning. The Cognitive Theory emphasizes short-term and long-term memory processes, which are both engaged through the use of Clickers. When asked questions about previous readings, students must enable long-term memory. Also, questions regarding the current lesson or lecture allow for practiced short-term memory. The Cognitive Theory also stresses the importance of discussions in the learning process. Clickers provide more student interaction and discussion, especially in larger lectures because they are able to collaborate on the presented questions.


There are many benefits surrounding clicker use. Benefits include:
  • Increased student interaction during large lectures
  • Posing questions about past assignments can ensure students start class with the same prior knowledge
  • Can be used to take attendance
  • Able to save data allowing for later analysis and better curriculum development
  • Encourages shy students to participate
  • Students use new information immediately, therefore have a higher retention rate
  • Clickers are collaborative tools which allow for instant feedback both for educators and students
  • Enables educators to better understand student learning and understanding
  • Can be used to survey students to better understand learning styles and preferences


Clickers also present challenges. Some challenges are:
  • Expensive for both schools and students. Some wonder if colored flashcards might be an effective and cheaper alternative for learning methods that involve interaction enabled by clickers.
  • Schools need to have a standard clicker brand used throughout each classroom because not all clickers are compatible with all computer systems, which could lead to students needing to purchase multiple clickers per term or school year
  • Added anxiety in the classroom because of shorter response time and less time to process question and answers
  • Educator often use clickers in an ineffective manner (just for attendance or pop quiz purposes)
  • Technology can fail, so educators should have a back-up plan

Special Guidance

There is no special guidance necessary for the use of Clickers. Students may need a brief lesson on Clicker usage or a lesson on how to read the output graphs shown after responses are collected. Students should also be advised as to which style of Clicker will be needed for the class, as well as where they may purchase the device.

To avoid possible technological problems, educators may opt to use their own, personal laptops or computers. Personal computers typically experience less glitches, providing a more reliable form of technology.

Educators should maintain reasonable expectations of both the technology and the students.

Current Research

This video discusses research findings regarding proper and effective use of clickers at the University of Colorado. Seventy-two percent of students surveyed reported that they liked using clickers in their classes. Researchers here found significant gains in learning when clickers were used in conjunction with "Peer Discussion" similar to the "Peer Instruction" practices pioneered by Erik Mazur.

A postdoctoral fellow working under Peer Instruction (PI) pioneer Eric Mazur at Harvard found there to be no statistical difference in learning gains with the use of clickers rather than flashcards. Clickers or Flashcards: Is there really a difference?

Lesson Ideas

It is easy for educators to misuse clickers. Ideally, clicker questions should be posed every ten to twenty minutes, or three to four times per class period. Using them in this way will regain class attention as well as provide feedback regarding how well students are understanding the lesson. To ensure students have similar prior knowledge at the start of class, educators can pose five to ten questions regarding the previous night's reading or assignments. It is important that educators are not just looking for correct answers, but participation.

Educators should not be afraid to re-poll students when undesirable responses to questions are received. Peer discussions about confusing questions generally allowed students to re-evaluate their first answer in order to successfully answer the question.

"Clickers in the Science Classroom: How to Use Clickers Effectively"

A video by the Science Education Initiative at the University of Colorado, Boulder recommends:
- Having an explicit discussion with your class about how clickers can help learning. Students shouldn't be convinced it's not a means of tracking and testing them.
- Asking challenging questions, questions that students really need to discuss in order to come to an answer; making these questions part of the lecture; not making these questions seem like a quiz.
- Using student questions.
- Encouraging peer discussion about questions; being comfortable listening, being quiet as students talk through their thinking together.
- Bringing peer discussion to a close about the time 3/4 of the students have clicked in a response. Typically after two to five minutes of discussion.
- Having students explain their rationale for their responses before revealing a correct answer; discussing one-by-one why each wrong answer is wrong; discussing why correct answer is correct.
- Thinking carefully about when to reveal poll's histogram--so as not to discourage those with a wrong answer from practicing a defense of their thinking--so as not allow those with the right answer go away without thinking about why they're right.
- Using assessment data as a guide for whether or how the plan for the day, the approach in presenting material should be adapted.
- Making answers a trivial part of a student's grade.
- Committing to using them regularly.
- Being patient with yourself as you learn to use them more effectively.


Clickers or Flashcards: Is there really a difference?
Teaching Ideas using Clickers

Recommended reading:
//Clicker Resource Guide// by University of Colorado Science Education Initiative (CU-SEI) and University of British Columbia Science Education Initiative (CWSEI) staff & associates. Written for instructors. Includes FAQ section and examples of effective questions to use with clickers.

Related Technology:

Poll Everywhere
Poll Everywhere works along the same ideology and principle of Clickers in the sense that the program takes individual responses and complies the data. The difference, individuals use their personal cellphones to respond to proposed questions. For audiences numbering 30 persons or smaller, the service is free. Larger groups have varying price ranges per month.


Resources like Classroom Clickers, Learning Technology-Clickers, and 7 Things You Should Know about Clickers contributed to the making of this Wiki page.