Technology Enhanced Learning Team


Clicker use as a tool for summative assessment

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Contributor: Rachel o’Callaghan
Department: School of Biological and Chemical Sciences
Full transcript of interview: here

Quick Summary

Audience response systems are often used to gauge opinions, gather feedback, for use with formative assessments or as an engagement tool. Turningpoint, the system in use here, was used by Rachel o’Callaghan in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences as a summative assessment tool. This case study looks at her use of the technology and her advice for anyone wishing to use it in a similar way.

Background & Context:

Large class sizes of 250 students and the need for a quick turnaround of returning feedback for assessments prompted Rachel in SBCS to use clicker technology summatively. Rachel’s familiarity of the technology, as well as the students’, meant that the process of trialling the different use of the technology over the last 12-18 months has felt “like a natural progression.”

The School of Biological and Chemical Sciences provided each student with a clicker, for their use in classes and instructed each to register the device so that there was a record of the clicker ID against each student on QMplus. Those who did not register their clickers were prompted to do so via a personal email and the students were given clear instruction as to how to use the devices, such as changing the channel to the correct one and testing that there was sufficient battery life. Rules were also defined to prevent uncertainty regarding latecomers, equipment failure and collusion/cheating.


During the assessment, Rachel and an exam invigilator ensured that the number of students in the venue matched the number of clicker responses for a practice question, with any discrepancies being used to identify faulty equipment or a mis-match in attendance. The exam invigilator then ensured that the desks were clear of anything other than the clickers and the students were given sufficient time for the question to be displayed via the projector, plus for the question to be read aloud, as an access arrangement for disability and dyslexia students.

MCQ answers are disseminated immediately to the students who wish to remain in the exam venue, along with feedback as to why particular answers were correct over options which the students may have incorrectly selected.

This summative test is used in addition to online quizzes, formative assessments and some written assessments in modules which Rachel teaches, with the clicker assessments being used to build on cumulative knowledge in a format which is continuous. The 5 option MCQ format is also used in the students’ exams, which builds familiarity and is valued.


Clicker use for summative assessment has been a success, with comments received from students supporting its adoption in the modules, submitted as module evaluation feedback. Students appreciate the speediness of the feedback and grades that they receive due to the format of the assessment and the well communicated rules which they are made aware of.

Rachel’s advice to others:

Rachel has adjusted her practices since her trialling this new use of the technology, giving more time to the set-up of the assessment and building upon the rules which she used initially. Since repeating the MCQs in this format, Rachel is confident in repeating the assessment format without it needing further adjustments.

Rachel’s main piece of advice for academics and support staff interested in adopting clicker use for summative assessment is:

For them to take time in terms of the environment when you set it up, for the students to feel confident in the technology, you feeling confident in the technology, matching the number of them to the number of responses in the practice question and setting the rules very clearly from the start.

The full transcript for the interview with Rachel o’Callaghan for this case study can be found here

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