Dr. Edward Prather, Executive Director of the Center for Astronomy Education and Associate Professor at the University of Arizona, recently led a series of UMinn workshops and discussions about active learning strategies for STEM courses. Among the techniques he highlighted was the use of colored-coded cards – single sheets of paper divided into four color-specific A, B, C and D quadrants – as an alternative to standard battery-powered clickers.
At the beginning of each semester, Prather gives each of his nearly 1000 students a single sheet of paper printed with four colored quadrants labeled A-D. Regularly throughout class time, Prather poses conceptual questions that students need to use the cards to respond to. They can fold the paper to show any of the four responses – or use the back to indicate E, or show the paper unfolded to indicate that they have no idea what the answer is or that they don’t understand the question.
Prather is not “anti-clicker.” He prefers the the card – that single sturdy, yet foldable, sheet of paper – for the following reasons:
- Cards require students to more fully commit to their answer. When students are asked to discuss their answer with a peer, the answer they gave is physically in front of them, so they can’t lie about what their response was.
- Cards allow the instructor to see where the responses cluster physically in the room.
- Cards allow the instructor to have a sound cue for when students are done thinking. When students are figuring out their responses, you can hear the folding and shuffling of the paper.
- Cards don’t allow students to know the result of the vote before the instructor reveals it to them (this can also be true of clickers when you hide the graph of student responses).
- Cards can’t run out of batteries and students don’t get points for responding, so the tool is low-tech and administrative factors low-stakes.
In the clip below Prather demonstrates using the cards in teaching, including the instructions he gives to students, as well as implementation tips for success.
Following the clip you’ll find four resources, including a PowerPoint Template for printing out your own Color-Coded Clicker Answer Sheet Template.
- 7 Things You Should Know about Clickers: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7002.pdf.
- What Are Clickers and How Can I Effectively Use Them? http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/clickers/pdfs/clickers-pedagogicalvalue.pdf.
- The Carl Weiman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia has compiled a great set of resources, including videos of instructors using clickers with peer instruction in a variety of class settings: http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/resources/clickers.htm.
- Clicker Answer Sheet: Colored ABC_Card