It’s curious: each month, Google gets hundreds of thousands of queries on terms such as “pedagogy” and “student engagement,” on “outcome studies,” “audience response systems,” and “classroom response systems.” But it gets virtually no queries linking these ideas together.
Queries such as “student response system outcome studies” or “do student response systems help students?” point to millions of relevant web pages, but visitors to Google don’t seem to type these questions into the search bar.
This is surprising, really. One would think that an educator would want to know if there’s more than anecdotal evidence that engaging students through the use of clickers and other audience response system technologies adds value.
Clearly there are researchers who want to explore this topic. ScienceDirect just published “A systematic review of audience response systems in pharmacy education,” which analyzes, as the title suggests, the studies that have been done on the value and efficacy of ARS within the context of pharmaceutical education.
What the study found both confirms and calls into question different parts of the anecdotal evidence most educators have encountered. “Students had positive perceptions regarding ARS classroom use, especially for participation, engagement, and attention to educational content,” write the report’s authors, confirming most educator’s experiences with ARS. “Positive perceptions from faculty and feasibility of use also support that ARS may be an effective teaching strategy to better engage students in the learning process,” the authors go on to say – all of which suggests that the anecdotal evidence may well have a basis in reality.
Where does the report call into question the anecdotal evidence? In the area of the long-term impact of ARS on student performance. It’s not that the authors found the beliefs of educators to be erroneous; they simply could not find enough studies that looked at the impact of ARS on grades and long-term performance. Among those studies they did review, the conclusions were mixed and the authors had no alternative but to write, “the impact on student academic performance is inconclusive and must be further explored.”
Further studies may find, in fact, that final grades and overall student academic performance are affected by quite a number of variables only one of which is whether an ARS system was part of the classroom experience. But when the evidence shows that students and faculty alike have positive perceptions of the technology, it’s not hard to conclude that a classroom response system do add real value.