Asee peer logo

Effectiveness Of Using Personal Response Systems In A Conceptual Physics Course

Download Paper |


2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching Physics or Engineering Physics

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.521.1 - 14.521.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


David Probst Southeast Missouri State University

visit author page

David Probst is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics at Southeast Missouri State University who regularly teaches conceptual physics.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Effectiveness of Using Personal Response Systems in a Conceptual Physics Course


We report the results of a study investigating the effectiveness of using a Personal Response System (clickers) in a conceptual physics course for non-science majors. In order to determine their effectiveness, clickers were used while teaching some concepts and not used while teaching others. We used the Force Concepts Inventory (FCI) as a pre-test and post-test to measure learning gains because most of the questions on the FCI test only one concept. By comparing learning gains for those concepts taught using the clickers with those taught without using them, the effectiveness of clickers in this type course was inferred.

The concepts tested were Newton’s three laws. In Fall 2007 clickers were used to teach the first and third laws, and in Fall 2008 they were used to teach only the second law. We found a statistically significant difference in the pre-test and post-test mean percent correct for questions pertaining to the first and third laws whether clickers were used or not. The percent gains for questions pertaining to the first and third laws were greater when the clickers were used; however, they were only significantly greater for the third law. No significant difference was found for either the mean percent correct or the percent gain for questions pertaining to the second law, whether or not clickers were used. The percent gains for the entire FCI were greater when the clickers were used to teach the first and third laws compared to when they were only used to teach the second law, but this difference was not quite significant (p<0.066). This suggests that using clickers in a conceptual physics course does improve learning force concepts, especially concepts related to Newton’s 3rd Law. It also suggests that the first and third laws are more easily understood conceptually than the second law.

I. Introduction

Personal Response Systems (clickers) have been shown to improve learning in various classroom settings when effectively used.1 I implemented the use of clickers in my conceptual physics course because I already used various methods to encourage student engagement in my classroom,2 and this seemed like a good method as well. After incorporating clickers into my instruction and using them for two semesters, I began to wonder whether or not they were having a positive effect on learning in my conceptual physics classroom. They were certainly facilitating students’ engagement with the concepts being taught, and anecdotal evidence suggested that they were improving learning, but I wanted more concrete evidence in order to justify the cost of the clickers for students. The Center for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at our institution offers assistance and small grants to faculty to study how their pedagogy is linked to learning. I was awarded one of those grants, called the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) grant, and became a SoTL Fellow. This study was designed to answer my question quantitatively.

Many institutions teach a conceptual physics course for non-science majors that students may take to fulfill their general education requirement in physical science. The textbook we use is

Probst, D. (2009, June), Effectiveness Of Using Personal Response Systems In A Conceptual Physics Course Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4798

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015