# How much pedagogical freedom do professors have

1. Sep 1, 2009

My teacher today said that we had to buy these $50 dollar clickers to answer all questions rather than simply answering questions on paper for free , because university set standards that all classrooms should use clickers , whether the professor, department, or college like the idea for their class or not; In other words, she had no control over what learning tools she could use for her class. This got me to thinking, if the university set standards for what learning tools teachers are able to bring to class, do they also set standards for how the class is taught? Are professors typically restricted to applying one or a few pedagogical method(s) for the classroom approved of by the university, or are there many pedagogical techniques and methods professors would like to apply in there classrooms , but are not able to because they might not meet university guidelines; 2. Sep 1, 2009 ### jtbell ### Staff: Mentor Depends on the university or college. I think it would be rather unusual to find such things made mandatory in a university in the USA. 3. Sep 23, 2009 ### Moonbear Staff Emeritus Well, keep in mind that things like paper are not free either. There is a lot of cost to print out exams or quizzes on paper for every student, plus the answer sheets, plus time grading, that those clickers can do quickly and easily. In the past, you just had a fee somewhere in your overall tuition bill that covered those costs. I actually WISH my students were required to have those clickers. I would love to incorporate that into my own classes, since they seem like a great way to ensure students are following along during lecture. However, our school only provides them and support for them to the med students. I'm trying to get administration to recognize we have more than just med students we teach, and that the other students don't have a lot to spend on special software and clickers, so they should be provided to them on a loaner or rental basis, not an outright purchase. Of course, if all your classrooms are using clickers, you should be able to use the same one for all your classes. Then it seems more worth the purchase price. How much restriction there is on teaching methods depends on the school and program. I have a huge amount of leeway in the nursing courses I teach, mostly because nobody else wants to teach undergrads so is happy to leave me alone with them. When we teach the med students, the dean of the med school is really a micromanager and puts a lot of restrictions on policies and procedures. I go along with things like doing computerized exams, but when we get told we're supposed to provide the students with a typed outline of our lectures, I just tell them that my powerpoint slides are my outline and they wouldn't have gotten into med school if they didn't know how to take notes. If they want to post outlines, they can sit through my lectures and write an outline. Nobody has taken me up on that offer, and the students do well on my exam questions, so they don't have a lot of room for complaints. The limitations more normally placed on teaching are not due to university policies, but due to budget limits. 4. Sep 24, 2009 ### noblegas Yes that is true, paper is an expense; But usually, paper is really really cheap, especially compared to clickers; in fact they are exactly 100 times cheaper than clickers and I bought six stacks of paper and each stack cost me 50 cents and they lasted me the whole semester and sometimes into the next semester; Not to mentioned that you can recycle paper and just reused paper in case you run out. I just don't understand stand how clickers are a conveinience and learning "advantage" for students . Students already pay an average of$400 dollars for textbooks. Clickers don't provide a new and clearer way to learn the material being taught in the class ; It is the same presentation just projected in power point presentation instead of a traditional whiteboard/blackboard.

5. Sep 24, 2009

### Andy Resnick

I have near complete autonomy; the state sets a list of topics that are to be covered (this is Physics I and II), and I can do whatever I want from there- choose the book (or no book), PPT lectures or chalkboard, use WileyPlus/equivalent or not, etc. etc.

6. Sep 24, 2009

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
What the clickers do is get students to think about what they are supposed to be learning during the lecture, so it is more active than passive. It also provides immediate feedback to the lecturer if the students are understanding what they are being taught or if they need to backtrack or try explaining a different way. Clickers don't require that the presentation be given in a Powerpoint, just that the questions are. The presentation itself can still be on a whiteboard or blackboard. Though, having started out my educational and teaching careers with blackboards and overhead projectors as the standard classroom equipment, when you are in large lecture halls, I would say that powerpoints are a major improvement. Students can all see the slides from even the back of the room, no issues with glare on the board, and they can all open the original pictures on their own computers rather than having to deal with bad black and white copies or trying to scribble illustrations into something memorable and comprehensible on their own notes.

I even recently saw a study published in an education journal where three identical courses were given, except in one there were no questions asked during lecture, in another, the questions were all asked verbally for students to answer by raising hands, and in the third, they were given clickers for in-class questions. The students with clickers outperformed the other two groups, even though they had the same lecturers, same lecture content, same exams, etc. It's a way of encouraging active learning and interactivity in the classroom, both of which are well-documented ways of improving student learning. There is no practical way to hand out paper every time you want to ask the class a question, collect it, score it, and give feedback all within a class period and not spend most of your class time handing out and collecting papers.

7. Sep 24, 2009

### noblegas

Perhaps you are right. They may helped students generally better understand the material being taught in the class. I have not really looked at the studies. Can you provide a link to those studies? Was their only one study on determining if the clickers helped students better understand what they were being taught? I know from personal experience with using clickers, the clickers have not helped me better understand the material , especially with quantum mechanics. I don't think I should be forced to buy a clicker if that approach doesn't work for me , even though that approach my work for most students; I reallly don't know. My professor uses an algorithm based approach teaching quantum mechanics; She doesn't should how the field of physics transition from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics. On the first day of class, she just writes down the mathematical formalism for QM; I know your field is biology and nursing I think , but I think you will find this author of a well known E&M textbook opinion on teaching and the whole clicker trend interesting and relevant concerning teaching and conveying lecture material to students http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/40214 .

Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
8. Sep 25, 2009

### Sankaku

Technology can make a good teacher better, but cannot make a bad teacher good. Mandating something like a clicker, regardless of teaching style, seems procrustean. Good powerpoint is ok while bad powerpoint is completely sterile. I love watching a good teacher write on a blackboard.

1st most important - good teacher (and course design)
2nd most important - good textbook

Everything else is extra. If the teacher can't inspire, no amount of technology can substitute. If you have a good textbook, at least you can learn on your own.

If kids can't pay attention in class without a gadget, then there is something else wrong in the picture. Trying to cure symptoms is not the right approach, no? It may be entirely paranoia on my part, but I wonder who paid for the clicker study you cited?

9. Sep 25, 2009

### Pengwuino

I think the bigger problem is students not understanding something and the instructor not really having a way of gauging it until tests or homeworks come in. MOST students simply do not speak up so instructors have no way of telling if the students are following something or not. Having a way to force interaction is a good tool, in my opinion, for instructors that aren't great but need a way of getting feedback from their students. If they're bad instructors, at least they will realize their students don't understand which could make them realize they need to improve their teaching style. It's a lot quicker then having to put out a quiz or a test and hope you picked questions that correctly gauge the students performance.

10. Sep 25, 2009

### Pengwuino

Ha, I love this:

It's so true :rofl:

Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
11. Sep 25, 2009

### Sankaku

If it is a way to improve teaching, then I agree that it is a great use of technology. However, I have seen too many situations where people mandate a shiny toy for the wrong reasons (particularly when someone else foots the bill).

Technology is great - just not for its own sake.

12. Oct 6, 2009

### Office_Shredder

Staff Emeritus
I'm just a lowly graduate student, but we're pretty much allowed to do whatever we want. They tell us to teach a certain way in training, and they say 'if you do it differently and all your students fail, you're in trouble' (so for example, don't decide to teach textbookless) but in terms of what teaching materials you use in a classroom and other details similar to this, it's up to us.

13. Oct 10, 2009

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
That was my experience. I was a TA and RA during my MS program, but during my PhD program I was assigned classes. I was responsible for the developing the syllabus, generating the lecture notes, and selecting the text or using one from the previously used in the course. Usually the texts were standard and we just used the latest edition.

BTW - I've not heard of 'clickers'. Are they electronic lights? Clicker conjures up an image of those obnoxious metal object that one used to click - and I'd find it annoying if students used them.

While lecturing, I'd spend a fair amount of time looking at the class, partly to see who might have questions and partly to see if they each seemed to be getting it. I also like to have students come to the board to participate in the lecture, assuming they had read the text or notes, or work a problem.

That was also back in the days when we were limited to chalk and blackboard, pen/pencil and paper, mimeographs were giving way to photocopiers, and PC's were relatively new.

Also - Illuminating physics for students by David Griffiths is a great article.

Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2009
14. Oct 11, 2009

Staff Emeritus
Astronuc, I am terribly sorry. I did the Newbie Mentor Bad Thing and edited your message thinking I was replying. I did my best to restore it but...

Anyway, clickers are small devices like TV remote controls. The instructor asks a question, the students push a button, and the responses are tallied up. It provides very fast feedback. The fancier systems can do more, like take attendance and correlate responses between two questions.

15. Oct 11, 2009

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
:rofl:

Thanks for the explanation. I can see the advantage of such electronic devices, e.g., attendance. Better than bar codes.

I was also calling attention to David Griffith's article about illuminating physics for students which noblegas cited.
http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/40214