Using Clickers in the Criminal Law classroom

At the conclusion of our second year of using “clickers” (the CPS system from eInstruction) in several classes at Albany Law School, I asked students in the Criminal Law class what they thought…

Question 1: How did the use of CPS enhance your learning of the course material?

Here are some of their responses:

  • Preparing my answers for the clicker quizzes gave me practice for the final; it let me know what kinds of questions the professor will ask and the answers he is looking for. Also, the quizzes will be good study material for the final.
  • It was interesting to see how others understood the material, also facilitated quizzes that do have learning enhancement value, which would be difficult to administer without the clicker.
  • It forces you to keep up with review of the concepts we’ve covered and also gives us exposure to kinds of questions that may be asked on the exam. 
  • I love having the immediate feedback on how I’m doing and whether I am thoroughly understanding the materials (based on the clicker quizzes)
  • It makes you master the material more.
  • It allowed for an instant response as to the answers for the daily quizzes.
  • It was a good chance to see if we got the main concept of the topic just covered.
  • The clicker quizzes were very useful to ensure that you had a clear grasp on the covered material. It was also helpful in allowing the teacher to quiz us on hypotheticals.
  • I am pleased to say that the use of clickers in this class was a great experience and truly enhanced and broadened my understanding of the material.  Having the opportunity not only to think about various issues and problems presented by the material, but also to receive instantaneous feedback was a welcome addition to the law school experience thus far.
  • It’s an inducement to be prepared, so I think it is a helpful tool in that way.
  • The clicker quizzes helped me to understand when I correctly comprehended material.
  • I found the clicker quizzes to be a HUGE help in learning and applying the course material.
  • It made me read the information more carefully and take more care in my studies.
  • The quiz solidified what we learned in class and through our readings. It really forced us apply what we just learned to questions and situations that might occur on the exam. Having the quiz be interactive like that made it interesting, and the instant feedback made if fun.

Question 2: How could its use be improved?

  • Perhaps more interactive classes, rather than just one quiz periodically.
  • Choose the setting so that the same people don’t get called on by the “blue man” every time (make it so it runs through everyone once, first). 
  • It would be fun to have more opinion questions (i.e. not quizzes) so the professor could gage opinion on certain topics.
  • It might be a good option for class participation during the Rape section because voting would be anonymous.
  • Give people more time to answer before ending each question. A few times my clicker would still be sending when the professor clicked “end” and I never got my response in.
  • Increasing the use of the clickers throughout a class hour would seem helpful.  For instance, the professor could pose a question to the class in a “spur of the moment” fashion to gauge the collective thoughts and opinions of the students.  I think using the clickers in this manner would add a new dimension to the Socratic dialogue that will allow students to anonymously voice their opinion in certain areas of the law while gaining knowledge about how their peers are analyzing and interpreting the law.
  • I would suggest increasing the level of difficulty for some of the questions (even if they were not counted toward the final grade).  When nearly everyone gets nearly every question right, you don’t get much sense of whether you are falling behind.  That’s not really a comment on the technology, however.
  • If the clickers were used to poll the class, instead of just taking quizzes which count towards grades.  It would be interesting to see what the opinions of other students on some of the materials are, especially the materials on more personal subjects.

The students have useful input and I am always glad I ask them. I also hope that other professors try out this technology tool in order to promote active learning and interactivity in their law school classroom.

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