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What is a Personal Response (Clicker) System?

A Personal Response System (PRS) consists of:

  • a set of remote control units (clickers) that students use to respond to questions posed by the instructor
  • a receiver plugged into the classroom computer (or instructor's laptop) that picks up the students' answers
  • software that is used to create multiple choice questions, and tabulate and display student responses

Clickers can be used to support a wide variety of teaching activities. In a science course, for example, the instructor might give a mini-lecture on a new or difficult concept, followed by some questions to test if students understand the new concept, and discussion to address misconceptions or barriers. To facilitate discussion on a difficult topic, a sociology instructor might poll students to reveal their assumptions about a particular population. In business ethics, the instructor might pose a theoretical dilemma, and ask the students to respond anonymously as to how they would act in that situation.

Because the software can be used to prepare questions before class, or to create them on the fly, clicker use can be spontaneous or carefully planned ahead, or both.