TILE Snapshot

TILE Snapshot

Anonymous Clicker Questions Empower Students to Gain TILE Classroom Ownership


In a recent visit to a TILE classroom, we had the opportunity to observe how simple clicker questions can help empower students, and deconstruct a traditional lecture classroom. For students and instructors alike, the transition to a TILE classroom necessitates an adjustment from the traditional, passive classroom to a learning environment where the student becomes an active participant. 

In this month’s edition of the TILE Snapshot series, we would like to share with you David McGraw’s simple practice of administering anonymous clicker questions early in the semester to address student’s discomfort or confusion with a TILE approach McGraw provided us with some unique insights into his course and teaching:

“The TILE approach certainly requires you to deconstruct the definition of a "classroom," but I love how it empowers the students.  I sensed at the top of our first class session that many students were unsettled by the seating arrangement and multiple focal points.  We discussed how a traditional classroom is very similar to a traditional arts venue as it pushes focus to a single point and minimizes any interactions between patrons/students.  We ended the first class by observing how comfortable we were with the traditional classroom and the traditional lecture format, but that the TILE approach could facilitate a different kind of learning experience.”

At the very beginning of our second-class session, McGraw displayed the following question and asked students to respond anonymously via their TurningPoint clickers:

Did you feel confused or overwhelmed at the end of Tuesday's class?

A. Very confused/overwhelmed

B. A little confused

C. Nope, everything made sense

McGraw explained this particular question and his reasoning behind it,

“A couple of students chose answer A, but most selected B, and a few indicated C.  My goal in posing this question was to create a forum for students to voice their unease after seeing that they were not alone in feeling unsettled by the new physical space and the new approach to a course.  I then shared that this is new territory for me as an instructor and asked what adjustments we could make to better use the space and the course format.  I didn't lead off with a direct and potentially confrontational question such as "what is confusing?" but encouraged an analysis of the changes we were making to the traditional course.  

To reinforce my position that the students are instrumental to how the course functions, I later posted another anonymous Clicker question: "Do you feel that this is a fair system for assigning topics and dates?"  It is one thing to proclaim that students should feel empowered in the class, but I believe a stronger statement is to provide a forum for risk-free feedback and then serve as a moderator as the students recommend improvements to the course structure.  The course is something that the students and I are creating together.”

McGraw’s effective use of anonymous clicker questions is a practice that can be easily modified for any instructor interested to build student ownership in a class. If you would like more information, consultants are available to help faculty identify and plan how to effectively apply and evaluate the impact of academic technologies. Please contact us at tile@uiowa.edu.