In 2006, the Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) of McGill University launched a (Re)Design Initiative with the goal of transforming the student learning experience by channeling major university resources to a single project. This initiative funds projects that encourage faculty to explore creative and effective ways of engaging students in the classroom. An important aspect of these projects is that they foster transformative rather than incremental change for teaching and learning by combining university wide resources from all units that provide support. Participants in (Re)Design projects are expected to attend teaching development activities throughout the year to develop effective learning-centered teaching approaches.
In the first (Re)Design project in 2007-2008, priority was given to faculty who teach large-enrollment, required undergraduate courses, with the goal of reaching the largest number of students. Based on the proposal of a group of professors in the Sciences, the first project focused on Enhancing Student Engagement in Large Classes with the support of ‘clicker’ technology. A student response system (SRS), commonly known as clickers, was used to support in-class inquiry strategies. The technology allows for professors to ask questions and collect and display student responses in real time. Professors receive immediate feedback about each individual student’s learning even in large class environments. Participating professors attended pedagogical/technological workshops on integrating interactive questioning strategies into their course design.
In the first year, clickers were loaned to students by the University with approximately 5,000 students, 50 courses and 35 professors, mostly in Science, involved in the project. In the second year, students purchased clickers at the McGill Bookstore; the project grew to include over 7,000 students, 100 professors in 120 courses across all major disciplines.
Students reported very high satisfaction with the impact of clickers on their engagement in the learning experience. A majority of students surveyed agreed that the use of clickers improved their attention, made them feel more involved, improved their understanding in the course, helped them focus on what they should be learning and was overall a worthwhile experience.