Published: Jan. 30, 2009

Angel Hoekstra is a graduate student in sociology at CU studying clickers.  Her dissertation, “Use of Clickers in Higher Education: A Socio-Cultural Analysis,”  analyzed students’ opinions on clicker use in Chemistry and Sociology courses.  Her research methods include interviews, observation, and anonymous student responses.

Hoekstra reports that “[e]xisting research on Student Response System use in natural science courses lacks systematic analysis of how clickers affect students socially: both as individuals working in small groups to solve problems, and as participants in a learning community.”  Her research seeks to fill this gap in our current knowledge of clickers.  It also highlights the idea that clickers are more than one-way tools that professors use to gather group responses or give short quizzes.  Clicker questions, particularly those on controversial topics, impact students both academically and socially.

Teachers have a variety of reasons for using clickers.  Some create clicker quizzes, where students are asked to discuss the answer to a question and are then graded on their response.  Other professors use clickers to determine where students stand on sensitive topics.  Others use clickers to force students to think critically about the material, or as a basis for class discussion.  Students’ reactions to clicker questions will vary according to the role clickers play in the classroom.  Questions concerning very personal beliefs will influence students in ways that reading comprehension questions will not.  For example, a student who holds the minority view on a debated topic might feel alienated from their classmates.  Faculty can be sensitive to how clicker questions affect students socially and culturally.

Hoekstra’s research will help professors recognize how clicker use impacts students.  She reports that “[p]reliminary analysis of the data gathered for this thesis indicates that public display of clicker histograms (visual representations of student votes) affects solidarity and student behavior in the learning community, with both beneficial and detrimental effects for student learning.”  Her work will provide a broader idea of how students respond to clicker questions.  Faculty can then use this knowledge to improve how they integrate clickers into their classes.

The ITS webpage contains information for both faculty and students concerning clicker use. If you are interested getting help with clickers, please contact an ASSETT DATC. Contact an ASSETT DATC through the "Find Someone" link on this site, through 5-HELP, or by sending an email to Please contact if you have questions about her research on clickers.