Where can I find good questions to use with clickers or Peer Instruction?

posted September 26, 2016
by Sam McKagan, PhysPort director

Many research-based teaching methods in physics, including Peer Instruction, CAE Think-Pair-Share, Technology-Enhanced Formative Assessment, and teaching with clickers, involve making your class more interactive by asking your students to discuss and answer multiple-choice conceptual questions. One challenge of using these methods is finding and writing good questions. This recommendation helps you find and write questions for your class.


Where to find questions for clickers or Peer Instruction

Below is a list of online collections of questions for clickers or Peer Instruction. You can also find questions by googling "ConcepTest", "concept test", or "clicker question".

Learning Catalytics (physics and many other sciences) Developed by Eric Mazur's group at Harvard. Contains a database including all ConcepTests developed by the Mazur group along with many contributed by adopters of Peer Instruction. Registration is required, but it is free and anyone can register.

University of Colorado Concept Test database (physics at all levels) Clicker questions and course materials from a variety of lower division and upper division physics courses at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Most can be downloaded without registering. A few require a password, which can be obtained via email.

Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative Course Materials system (physics and many other sciences) A growing collection of course materials from the University of Colorado Science Education Initiative (CU-SEI) and the University of British Columbia Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI). There are numerous clicker questions for Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology and Geological Sciences, as well as clicker questions in some of the other disciplines.

Physics clicker question sequences from Ohio State University (introductory physics) These clicker question sequences were developed and researched by the Ohio State University Physics Education Research Group. Requires a password, which can be obtained via email.

University of Maryland Peer Instruction question database (introductory physics): ConcepTests developed by the Physics Education Research Group at the University of Maryland. Anyone can access these questions.

AAAS Science Assessment page (physics and many other sciences) The assessment items on this website can also be used as clicker questions for middle school through intro university; they are designed to test student understanding and common misconceptions in the earth, life, physical sciences, and the nature of science. Anyone can access these questions.

Clicker Questions for use with PhET Interactive Simulations (physics and many other sciences) Browse through this collection of clicker questions by selecting "CQs" for Type. These questions are designed to be used with PhET simulations - a collection of free, research-based interactive simulations that can be downloaded or run online, developed by the University of Colorado PhET team. Anyone can access these questions.

SERC concept test examples (mostly geoscience, some other sciences including physics) A collection of concept tests from the SERC Pedagogy in Action site at Carlton.  Anyone can access these questions.

Peer Instruction for Quantum Mechanics (physics) A collection of concept tests for teaching quantum mechanics. Contact the author to access the questions.

Center for Astronomy Education's Instructional & Workshop Materials page (astronomy) If you scroll to the bottom of the page, the Lecture Power Points section has a complete set of questions (interspersed with lecture slides) for an introductory astronomy course. The questions listed under Exam Banks are all multiple choice questions that serve as good Peer Instruction questions. Anyone can access these questions.

ClassAction Questions and Interactives from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (astronomy) ClassAction modules consist of astronomy questions and resources designed to encourage student engagement in the classroom. Many questions are permutable, and incorporate animations and images. Anyone can access these questions.

Paul Green’s Astronomy ConcepTest database (astronomy) A library of ConcepTests for introductory college astronomy containing several hundred questions. To access the database, you must submit questions to add.

Chemistry ConcepTests from the University of Wisconsin (chemistry) For General, Organic, Analytical, Inorganic, Physical, and Biochemistry. Also includes explanations on how to use them effectively, and experiences of educators. Anyone can access these questions.

Chemistry ConcepTests from Brandeis University (chemistry) For General Chemistry, created by the Herzfeld Group. Anyone can access these questions.

Question resource list from Project MathQUEST at Carroll College (math and statistics) Links to question collections for many college/university level math and statistics courses, links to publications on classroom voting in mathematics, and links to clicker companies. 

Suggestions for how to write questions for clickers or Peer Instruction

Good questions are a crucial component of Peer Instruction. Most instructors use some combination of using questions that others have written and writing their own. Here are some suggestions for writing your own:

  • Questions should require conceptual understanding to answer, rather than simply asking students to perform calculations or recall factual information.
  • Questions may be designed to elicit specific student difficulties, either from the physics education research literature, or from your own experience with students.
  • When grading exams or homework, every time you see a mistake, write down that mistake, then use it as a wrong answer in a concepTest.
  • During a concepTest, ask students to draw a diagram, then walk around and look at their diagrams, and draw what you see on a transparency.
  • For more suggestions, see the Science Education Initiative Clicker Resource Guidethis post on writing ConcepTests from the Peer Instruction blog, or Beatty, Gerace, Leonard, and Dufresne 2006.

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