Getting an Honest Answer: Clickers in the Classroom

21 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2015 Last revised: 3 Jun 2016

See all articles by Dan Levy

Dan Levy

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Joshua Yardley

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Richard J. Zeckhauser

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: November 24, 2015

Abstract

Asking students to raise their hands is a time-honored feedback mechanism in education. Hand raising allows the teacher to assess to what extent a concept has been understood, or to see where the class stands on a particular issue, and then to proceed with the lesson accordingly. For many types of questions, as the evidence here demonstrates, the tally from a public show of hands misrepresents the true knowledge or preferences of the class. The biases are predictable and systematic. Specifically, students raising their hands tend to herd and vote with the majority answer. Beyond impeding the teacher’s ability to assess her class, such herding threatens to diminish learning by limiting the level to which a student engages with the questions posed by the teacher.

Keywords: Audience response systems, clickers, hand raising, herding, classroom feedback

Suggested Citation

Levy, Dan and Yardley, Joshua and Zeckhauser, Richard J., Getting an Honest Answer: Clickers in the Classroom (November 24, 2015). HKS Working Paper No. 071. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2695074 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2695074

Dan Levy (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Joshua Yardley

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Richard J. Zeckhauser

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1174 (Phone)
617-384-9340 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1174 (Phone)
617-496-3783 (Fax)

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