Use of I-Clicker Technology in BUS 104, Introduction to Business

John Striebich, Business Administration Professor, Monroe Community College

Background

I would like to gauge student understanding of the material covered in class through “immediate assessment”. Using “quick quizzes” to assess their grasp of the material will allow me to make adjustments in face-to-face class time to cover topics more in-depth, provide clarifying examples, or move on to other material if students show an understanding of the topic. I also believe that this technology will get students more involved in the class as they will be assessed on their understanding of the material through “quizzes” 4 to 5 times per class session.

Inquiry Questions

  • Are students learning the material covered in the class lectures and discussions?
  • Can the topics covered in class be adjusted (length and depth) based on student understanding of the material?
  • How can I get students more involved in the “lecture material”?
  • How can I get students to read the textbook material before class and complete the assignments/quizzes in the online homework management system?

Instructional Change Overview

Using I-clickers in the classroom for my Bus 104, Introduction to Business course is a quick, efficient method to assess student learning of material that has just been covered. Five question multiple choice quizzes can be embedded in PowerPoint presentations as part of class prep to test students’ understanding of the material just covered. I will build in about 4 or 5 quizzes per 80 minute session that cover the major topics (concepts, definitions, discussion materials). I always pause to ask students if they have any questions, and make numerous attempts to solicit questions. Most of the time students do not respond or say they understand the material. Using I clickers will allow me to get feedback right after I cover a topic and then I can adjust my classroom presentation accordingly. The use of this technology will get students more involved in each class session and keep their attention focused on the material, as they will be tested on the topics covered.  As a result of this instructional change I would like to see:  1) Test average improvement  2) Positive student feedback on the use of this technology.

Assessment Methodology

My main objective is to increase student learning. I will collect the data using the following methods:

  • Comparison of test scores:  I will use test averages to measure improvement in student learning. I will compare test averages for my “beta” class to averages from previous semesters, and I will not use the technology for every unit, so I can compare test averages across units from the same class.
  • Student survey on use of I clickers in classroom: I will also develop a student satisfaction survey on the use of this technology and constantly solicit qualitative feedback from students.

Reflections

This narrative summarizes my experiences with my action research project of using I-Clickers to assess students’ understanding of the pre-reading, quizzes and homework that is assigned before a class session and their understanding of the discussions/lectures in class. The ultimate goal is to shift the course (Bus 104) even more towards discussion, case analysis, current events analysis and practical application of the course theories/concepts. I already use the tools listed in the previous sentence and have incorporated many technology tools such as Connect, Aplia, various web resources, and other online course management systems in this course.

I will start with the positive component of my research – using I-Clickers to gauge students understanding of the course discussion/lecture. Using “quick quizzes” during class to assess if students were learning the material presented did work. Students did not know when I would embed a quiz into the discussion, and I believe this kept them more attentive to the presentation of the material. Using these embedded quizzes allowed me to adjust the pace of the material, so that if students were acquiring the concepts I could move more quickly, but if students were stuck on a concept, I could backtrack and reinforce the material. This allowed me to get more class discussion on current events or application of the material, or put students in groups to work on case studies or searching for current information on the web that tied into our subject. This may be validated by a 4 point increase in test averages (all 4 tests) throughout the semester compared to providing the same tests to a Bus 104 section in Spring 12. Unfortunately, I cannot control for the “quality and make-up” of students from one section of Bus 104 to another, so I am not saying the increase in test average validates my research. Also, though overall student reactions to the use of I-Clickers was somewhat positive, they did not see this as a use of technology and felt it made the class harder because they were “always taking quizzes” or “being assessed”. Some students also told me they felt tired after my class, because “they could not just sit back and listen”. I never offered more than four quizzes in a 100-minute class session, and averaged 2.5 quizzes per session. The use of I-Clickers is standard practice at four-year colleges that offer there introductory classes as lectures with 250+ students.

Though there was a positive component to the use of I-Clickers through the use in the classroom, the second point I will discuss, getting students to do the pre-work, in my opinion, outweighs the positive. In college, the expectations are for students to read the assigned material before class, take the online quizzes to show they understand the basic definitions and concepts, and complete the homework assignments (video cases, analyzing articles, timelines, understanding the processes) to understand the basic application of the material. For this course, I use Connect, which is an integrated online course management system that has many interactive homework applications and quizzes that self grade and provides students with immediate feedback. I generally assign one chapter per week and the chapters’ average about 25 pages of reading with many “side bars”, charts, graphs, and company profiles. The textbook that we use for Bus 104, Understanding Business by Nickels is used by most colleges for their introduction to business courses and is written at a 9th grade reading level.

I developed quizzes using the I-Clicker for the beginning of class to test students’ understanding of their reading. I also have access to their scores in Connect, and can see that the students are not reading the material (poor Connect quiz and homework grades) or not doing the work at all. These beginning of class I-Clicker quizzes were generally very poor. After discussing this issue with students for the first four to six weeks of the semester, student feedback centered on the amount (average of one chapter per week) of reading that was assigned and all the other reading that was assigned by their other professors. Here are some comments from students about the pre-class session work:

1) You (the prof) are making us do all the work.
2) I want to be taught the material.
3) There is too much reading.
4) We never had to read textbooks in high school.
5) This is a lot of work taking into account our full time academic schedule and working so many hours.
6) In high school, teachers gave us study guides and summarizes to work off of.
7) No one ever taught me how to read a textbook or take notes on my reading.
8) I am paying to be taught not to work independently.

There were more issues, but these were the most “popular”. There is a huge gulf between the high school work and college expectations of what students are learning and how they are being taught to learn. I have a senior high school student who has a set of textbooks at home and textbooks at school, but never uses them. All his teachers provide “packets” that summarize, study guides, and other short cuts. Except in English classes, students do not seem to “read critically” on a regular basis. I do not believe that my action research project approach changed student preparation coming to class.

Conclusion

Part of my project worked and the second part (that I thought was more important to student learning) did not. I do have a major issue with the CCTE program. In my opinion as a college professor, the issues are not teaching methodologies, but tying the high school teaching/learning experience to the expectations of college-level work. If students are not motivated, have not set some goals for college and careers, are passed through the system even if they have deficient skills, then all the collaborative, culturally oriented, technology, inquiry-based teaching tools will not work.  Students need to have the capabilities to learn and apply material to 21st century problems.   My classroom visits and discussions with the high school teachers raised many serious issues that I see affecting students at the college level. There is too much “hand holding”, not enough critical inquiry on subjects, little current event analysis and practical application, and no system to help students be lifelong learners. It will be interesting to see what happens when four-year college professors are added to the cohorts. Their expectations will be so much higher than the community college instructors.