Comparing active learning techniques: The effect of clickers and discussion groups on student perceptions and performance

Ryan J. Walker, Brooke R. Spangler, E. Paige Lloyd, Bethany L. Walker, Peter M. Wessels, Amy Summerville


Instructors often implement technology-based active learning pedagogies, such as clickers, to maximise student engagement and facilitate learning outcomes. Despite the abundance of clicker research, no work has directly compared student performance as well as student perceptions of clickers to a distinct, non-technological active learning pedagogy. Using a mixed methods quasi-experimental design, the current research compared clickers to a collaborative active learning pedagogy, student discussion groups. As predicted, clickers were evaluated more favourably than discussion groups. Qualitative analysis of students’ open-ended evaluations augmented these quantitative findings. Secondary analyses suggested that student performance was equivalent for clicker and discussion sections. Together, these results suggest that incorporating clickers into introduction courses may improve students’ attitudes towards the instructor’s pedagogy without any negative consequences for performance.


Audience response devices; Student attitudes; Active learning; Student engagement; Performance

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