Professor Tom Balistrieri using Clickers in Abnormal Psychology

Tom Balistrieri was so kind as to answer some questions of mine regarding how he used clickers in his Abnormal Psychology class this past B15 term. He also allowed me to come to his last class and ask his students a little about what they thought of clickers – those results are at the bottom – very interesting. If you have any questions for Tom or myself (Jess) please don’t hesitate to ask!

Since this was your first time using clickers in this manner, did you have any specific expectations going in?

As a program presenter at universities such as Bucknell University, Princeton and Temple I had used clicker technology before with marvelous results. My hope was that utilizing the technology in the classroom would stimulate interest and involvement as well as provide a means of gathering data.

Can you explain briefly how you were using clicker in your class?

I utilized the technology in literally every class. On the average four frames or questions were presented to the students. The range from 2-8 frames. One example; I would present a concept or theory and then ask questions geared toward the application of the theory or concept. A second example; students completed interest inventories such as the Holland Types and MBTI. Using clicker technology students reported their type and were able to visually get a picture of the 42 person class. Example three; A personality disorder, illness or outcome of abnormal behavior was presented in class and using clicker technology the class was able to report their experience (how many women in the room had been sexually assaulted, for example). Example four; Using a pre and post format students were asked their opinion or thought about something or someone…the lecture was offered…and the students were re-polled on their opinion or thought about that same something or someone.

Did you have any strategies when creating clicker questions? Some clicker instructors have struggled with creating questions that pull out the right information, did you struggle with this at all?

As the term progressed I became more skilled at presenting questions. Reading some basic articles on creating surveys and creating effective questions helped. I tried to be cognizant of not leading students to an answer I sought but to glean honest clear responses. Because the clicker system allows for anonymity the students, all the students, were able to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences. There were some VERY difficult questions asked and students, obviously, felt safe enough to answer honestly. I also used clicker technology to impart humor into the lecture. For Example: I Suffer from Paranoid Personality Disorder Answer options included; A. Why are you asking me that question?, B. You are going to use my answer to punish me aren’t you?, C. What? D. It is none of your business!!!

Can you share with us a moment from class that really showed the power of clickers in the classroom?

On the MBTI one of the Type breakdowns is Introvert/Extrovert. The 42 students were asked to report their scores. Exactly 21 were Introverts and 21 were Extroverts. The students couldn’t get over it. The classroom has a middle isle so I asked all the introverts to sit on one side and all the extroverts to sit on the other side. We had an amazing discussion about these two types. The students then reported on the other three ‘paired types’ and they continued to move around the room in a very animated fashion. It was a lot of fun and you could feel the anticipation in the room as they ‘clicked in’ their responses and waited for the graphs to appear.

This could have been a very boring and private presentation as students examined their own scores. In this fashion they could see themselves relative to others and they had fun interacting. It is a wonderful way to keep student moving and involved.

Do you have any suggestions for other professors using clicker for the first time?

Obviously I’m sold on the technology. The use of the technology does NOT break the flow of a lecture…it enhances what is being taught. You can get immediate feedback on whether or not students understand a concept and sometimes to determine if they are awake!! A question and answer ‘session’ can take all of minute for students to respond and to witness results. I have found that after I ask a question the students seek a follow up question or a more detailed question…in merely minutes you can ask their question and create a frame to gather and summarize their answers. It is a meaningful technology not a gimmick in any way, shape or form. I feel I’ve only touched on the possibilities.

Let me add…Jessica Baer, and her fellow staff members, helped me from the outset to understand and feel utterly comfortable with the technology. It is easy to use and if something goes amiss Jessica is right there to help. One day in class I forgot a key step in the process, called Jessica, and she immediately came over to my classroom to assist. Jessica, in her kind and professional manner, showed me my error, fixed the problem and I was on my way…barely missing a word of my lecture to the students. Jessica is a marvelous person, professional and a WPI asset. She helped me, a 65 year old man, to feel as if I am on the cutting edge of utilizing 21st century technology to enhance my teaching. Use the technology. It is quite brilliant.

Tom’s 37 students were asked 6 questions before passing in their clickers: