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Classroom response system

Classroom response system

A classroom response system (CRS) is a device or software that enables the instructor to obtain real-time feedback from the audience. Typically the instructor poses a multiple-choice question or a selection of statements to the participants. Using the CRS each participant submits an answer anonymously. The answers are collected by the CRS and displayed as a histogram of the choices made by the participants. The CRS can be applied to different learning objectives:

  • to assess participants' understanding
  • to help participants to consolidate their pre-exisiting knowledge by starting discussion in pairs or small groups, who work together to identify the correct answer
  • to collect data to illustrate statistical methods
  • to evaluate the influence of information or arguments on participants' opinions
  • to facilitate discussions
  • to support participants in exploring, expanding, applying and integrating their knowledge
  • to adapt training sessions according to the participants' understanding and needs
  • polling questions

You will need

Essential

If you use a traditional CRS device, you will need access to a computer in class (either a laptop or the classroom's built-in computer). This computer needs to have the CRS software installed. In addition you need a receiver, which receives the participants' answers. This is usually connected to your computer via USB. In addition you need a projector connected to your computer that displays the results. Each student needs to have a clicker device. You can either request that they buy them or you can distribute them in class.

Alternatively you can use a software-based product. With this the participants can use any web-enabled device (laptop, smart phone, tablet) to submit their answers. The instructor needs to have a computer or other web-enabled device with the matching software that is linked to a projector.

Benefits and limitations

Benefits

  • Helps participants to remain focused during a training session 
  • Promotes engagement of all participants, thereby increasing the energy in the room
  • Gives the instructor immediate feedback on participant understanding
  • Enables participant-centred instruction
  • Can be used to engage experts, by asking for their opinion
  • Inserting questions at a variety of points in a lecture reduces the likelihood that learners will become fatigued in listening to or reading slides  

Limitations

  • A technical device or software is needed, or all participants need access to a smart phone with the appropriate app.
  • Appropriate multiple-choice questions need to be designed
  • There is a low rísk of total CRS failure, so it's good to have a low-tech back-up in mind (e.g. raising hands or polling papers) 

What do I actually do as an instructor/facilitator?

Preparation / before class

First you should identify your primary objective for using the CRS (e.g. to adapt lesson plans according to learners' understanding, to facilitate discussions, etc.). You then need to design multiple-choice questions that enable you to reach this goal. You will also need to identify or develop teaching material for the topic to be introduced as pre-class work or during class. CRSs offer a good opportunity to introduce new content as pre-course material and use the CRS during class time to let the learners explore, expand, apply and integrate their knowledge.

If you are a first-time user of CRS in your organisation, you will also need to choose an appropriate CRS device or software. It may be possible to hire devices to avoid the expense of purchasing them before you have tested how appropriate they are for your situation.  

Implementation / during class

You might need to explain to your participants how the CRS works, perhaps using a simple demonstration question to give the students an opportunity to practise using it. You can then move on to using your prepared questions as part of your lesson plan. Depending on the outcome, you may need to be  prepared to adapt the lesson plan.

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Method effectiveness

Source: Vanderbilt University, The Center for Teaching

Examples and materials

Other

Derek Bruff's Blog on Teaching and Technology 
Vanderbilt University, The Center for Teaching  

Image credits/copyright

Image by Kristen Moss under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 license

Similar Methods

Breakout session

Breakout session

Breakout sessions in a learning context refer to a technique where subgroups are formed during a lecture-type event. Students are assigned to one breakout group (typically 2-4 groups are formed) and given instructions on what they need to do. Topics are assigned to each group (either the same or different topics). Examples of topics can include

  • discussing a case which is based on the topic of the lecture
  • students analysing their learning so far and defining additional learning needs or interest or
  • diversifying the topic of the lecture (e.g. a main lecture on clinical trials followed by break-out groups working on clinical trials in cancer, infectious diseases, rare disease or for vaccines. 

The break-out group can be student or teacher/facilitator lead, depending on the design of the break-out group. A break out group typically ends with reporting the results etc back to the entire class.

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