‘Student Response Systems’ boost Jr. High student engagement

January 5th, 2016 by admin

Claire Dumlao, B.A.
Jr. High Teacher
Mt. Helix Academy

Mt Helix Academy’s teachers routinely implement many of the evidence-based teaching methods and we continually strive to improve our use of them. Generating high rates of student engagement in lessons is one of the primary goals of teachers throughout our school. As a result, those students who have attended Mt. Helix Academy for a while are quite accustomed to responding frequently during lessons. You could say, “They learn to pay attention.” It’s more than paying attention, however. Engagement implies that students are much more likely to comprehend the lesson.

Obtaining and maintaining high rates of student engagement in lessons with junior high students can be quite a challenge and that’s especially true for those new students at Mt. Helix Academy who, prior to attending our school, did not have the benefit of instruction involving high rates of student engagement. To be fair, however, the problem of engaging junior high students is shared by more of our students than merely the new ones. Shall we say that the priorities of young adolescents are not always consistent with the school’s curriculum and the lessons we as teachers are trying to impart.

One of the strategies I’ve found useful involves the use of student response systems (SRS), or as the students like to call them, “clickers.” We use the SMART Response PE clickers, which are small wireless remotes that contain an alphanumeric keypad. Students can enter a variety of answers including multiple choice, multiple select, true/false, numbers, and short text depending on the type of question I generate using the SMART notebook software.

Increasingly, I have students who have grown up as “digital natives” possessing high motivation and great fluency in using various forms of electronic/information technology. If they are given the opportunity to use interactive technology in the classroom, my experience is that their engagement increases, active learning takes place, and I become a more effective teacher.

I have found that SRS has been especially useful in those classes with one or two students who always have their hand up in the air and are on the edge of their seat ready to scream out the answer. Perhaps SRS is even more useful in classes having a few students in the back row who seem unsure of the answer and would rather not make eye contact. With SRS, all students have an equal opportunity to respond simultaneously and anonymously, giving many students a great deal more confidence.

In a future entry, I’ll describe how I use SRS in math and vocabulary classes to improve engagement for all my students and to gather information on the success of my lessons.