Polling Students with Clickers: Professor Weissman Polls Students on the Future of Nuclear Power.

Professor Weissman taking a poll in his class.A multiple choice question appears on the projector and all of the sudden you hear the clicking of 34 different remotes — each click representing a vote from a student in the class. Steve Weissman stands in the front of the class and after he closes the poll a chart is displayed on the screen. The results are surprising. After a short moment, Weissman initiates an engaging discussion about the results.

Weissman teaches Energy Regulation and the Environment and several other courses here at UC

Berkeley Law. When the lecture topic turned to nuclear power, Weissman knew that the topic would be controversial and he was interested to hear what his students thought about it. In past years, he would just ask for a show of hands — who thought that nuclear power should be an important part of the energy formula going forward?  He found that the electronic polling adds several elements — the ability to getcloser to people’s private feelings on the topic, the chance to ask several nuanced question instead of just one, and the immediate ability to look at the results in graphic form. Some results were more surprising than others, but the class discussion was engaging. Students seemed eager to explain their votes, backing up their viewpoint with insightful information and reasoning.

Taking an electronic poll in the classroom is a surefire way to get everyone engaged with the conversation at the same time. It creates a sense of community in the room, as everyone tries to understand the basis for the group’s collective response.  The survey is anonymous but people are eager to share their responses. This process brought  people into the mix whose voices I didn’t usually hear.

– Professor Weissman

Looking similar to a remote control, Clickers allow students to respond to multiple choice questions. In most cases the answers are anonymous, so students can be honest. With the proper questions, Clickers can be a great way to start class discussions. Polling students can reveal the consensus of your entire class, instead of the comments of one vocal student. You can also use polls to learn about what students might be struggling with or as in Professors Weissman’s case, what they may think about a relevant and timely course topic.

Clicker Remotes

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Steven Weissman Is a Lecturer in Residence here at UC Berkeley Law. He has taught courses on the subject of energy law and policy since 2006. Weissman is also the Director of Energy Program for the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment. For more information on Steven Weissman click here.