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Teaching with student response systems in elementary and secondary education settings: A survey study

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Teaching with student response systems in elementary and secondary education settings: A survey study

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This study examined how 498 elementary and secondary educators use student response systems in their instruction. The teachers all completed an online questionnaire designed to learn about their goals for using response systems, the instructional strategies they employ when using the system, and the perceived effects of response systems. Participants in the study tended to use similar instructional strategies when using the technology as have been reported in higher education. These include posing questions to check for student understanding and diagnose student difficulties, sharing a display of student responses for all to see, asking students to discuss or rethink answers, and using feedback from responses to adjust instruction. A latent class analysis of the data yielded four profiles of teacher use based on frequency of use and breadth of instructional strategies employed. Teachers who used the technology most frequently and who employed broadest array of strategies were more likely to have received professional development in instructional strategies and to perceive the technology as more effective with students.
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Abstract This study examined how 498 elementary and secondary educators
use student response systems in their instruction. The teachers all completed
an online questionnaire designed to learn about their goals for using response
systems, the instructional strategies they employ when using the system, and
the perceived effects of response systems. Participants in the study tended to
use similar instructional strategies when using the technology as have been
reported in higher education. These include posing questions to check for
student understanding and diagnose student difficulties, sharing a display of
student responses for all to see, asking students to discuss or rethink answers,
and using feedback from responses to adjust instruction. A latent class analysis
of the data yielded four profiles of teacher use based on frequency of use and
breadth of instructional strategies employed. Teachers who used the tech-
nology most frequently and who employed broadest array of strategies were
more likely to have received professional development in instructional strat-
egies and to perceive the technology as more effective with students.
Keywords Student response systems Æ Teaching practice Æ Latent class
analysis
W. R. Penuel (&) Æ V. M. Crawford
SRI International, 333 Ravenswood Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA
e-mail: william.penuel@sri.com
C. K. Boscardin
University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, USA
K. Masyn
University of California, Davis, Davis, USA
123
Education Tech Research Dev (2007) 55:315–346
DOI 10.1007/s11423-006-9023-4
RESEARCH ARTICLE
Teaching with student response systems in elementary
and secondary education settings: A survey study
William R. Penuel Æ Christy Kim Boscardin Æ
Katherine Masyn Æ Valerie M. Crawford
Published online: 30 November 2006
Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2006
Introduction
A number of reform initiatives have sought to provide mathematics and sci-
ence teachers in elementary and secondary education with powerful new
methods for improving instruction. Many reforms in these subjects have
focused on improving student work in labs and small groups (Friedler,
Nachmias, & Linn, 1990; Mokros & Tinker, 1987). Yet roughly a third of
science instruction takes place as part of whole-class instruction (Martin et al.,
2001). In mathematics, even though reform initiatives in schools often aim at
increasing small group and class-wide discussion, a recent study of mathe-
matics instruction found that whole-class, teacher-directed instruction still
dominates in elementary schools (Rowan, Harrison, & Hayes, 2004).
Many researchers believe whole-class instruction still has an important role
in learning (Klahr & Nigam, 2004; Schwartz & Bransford, 1998). Whole-class
instruction provides teachers with multiple opportunities to provide feedback
to students on their thinking (O’Connor & Michaels, 1996). Especially after
exposure to a hands-on encounter with a new topic, students may be ready to
learn from lectures by teachers on the concepts or for demonstrations that
address students’ pre-conceptions about particular topics (diSessa & Minstrell,
1998). There may indeed be a ‘‘time for telling’’ when students can learn more
from teachers’ exposition than from reading or exploring on their own (Sch-
wartz & Bransford, 1998).
To date, researchers have paid little attention to scaleable innovations to
improve whole-class instruction in K-12 mathematics and science classrooms
(O’Connor, 1994; O’Connor & Michaels, 1996). At the same time, within
higher education instructors have been developing a promising approach
that uses classroom network technologies to promote students engagement
in large lecture classes and to increase teachers’ awareness of students’
knowledge of scientific concepts. When the teacher poses a question in a
lecture hall, all students respond to the question over the network. Stu-
dents’ responses are anonymous and are immediately aggregated and dis-
played for the teacher and students, thus ‘‘making student thinking visible.’’
With response technology, teachers can integrate such questioning—with
universal and immediate response from all students—into instruction and
use the technology for a variety of purposes, such as elicitation of students’
initial ideas, formative assessment, instructional decision making, polling
students about preferences and interests, and quizzing. Prior research sug-
gests that—when combined with effective questioning, discussion, and
feedback—classroom network technology constitutes a powerful catalyst for
conceptual change, heightened student engagement in class, and, because
involvement and feedback for all students is equal, greater equity in science
instruction (Crouch & Mazur, 2001; Roschelle, Penuel, & Abrahamson,
2004).
An increasing number of K-12 teachers are using response system tech-
nology. Several commercial companies have begun to sell relatively low-cost
systems to elementary, middle, and high school teachers. These companies
316 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
have emphasized a variety of potential effects of response system technol-
ogy to this level of educator: preparing students to perform well on stan-
dardized tests; increasing class participation from a variety of students; and
enhancing formative feedback to the teacher on how students are doing.
Their efforts have clearly been successful in convincing K-12 educators of
the value of their product: some companies have sold thousands of units to
K-12 customers in every grade from K to 12.
Although a number of researchers have studied student response systems
in higher education, there has been very little research at the K-12 level.
There are examples of studies that show promising effects on achievement
(Robinson, 2002), as well as case studies that suggest promising applications
in areas such as mathematics (Hudgins, 2001) and reading (Hartline, 1997).
At the same time, case study researchers have also raised questions about
how feasible it is to implement response systems in smaller classes (Means
& Olson, 1995). Only recently, as wireless networks have begun to enable
more diverse forms of student participation and learning in class, have K-12
researchers in mathematics and science education sought explicitly to
develop models of teaching and learning in the networked classroom
(Hegedus & Kaput, 2004) and to study their effects on student learning
(Hegedus, 2003; Lonsdale, Baber, & Sharples, 2004; Wilensky & Stroup,
2000).
One important goal for advancing understanding of student response
systems in K-12 settings is to learn about teachers’ purposes for using them
and to analyze the teaching strategies they use in conjunction with the
technology. A research base in higher education already exists that can
guide such a study, and an understanding of teachers’ goals and practices is
critical to designing appropriate studies of impact. Experimental studies to
answer the question, ‘‘Are student response systems effective in improving
student achievement?’ are necessary. But for such studies to succeed in
providing a good answer to the question, researchers need first to identify
measures tied to teachers’ goals and formulate hypotheses about what
kinds of uses of response systems will produce effects.
Survey-based studies of teachers’ goals and instructional practices with
response system technologies can provide researchers with data that can
inform experimental research. Surveys administered to national samples of
teachers in the past have provided researchers with a better sense of how
prevalent particular practices are, and they have helped researchers identify
an appropriate focus for subsequent experimental studies (Berends & Garet,
2002; Desimone & Le Floch, 2004). In this paper, we present results of our
own survey study of K-12 teachers’ goals for using response systems,
instructional practices with the systems, and perceptions of effects in their
classrooms. These results are intended to provide a broad look at response
systems in elementary and secondary education and to inform future impact
studies.
Teaching with response systems 317
123
Teaching with response systems in higher education
Researchers who have studied student response systems in higher education
share a belief that the technology alone cannot bring about improvements to
student participation in class and achievement; rather, the technology must be
used in conjunction with particular kinds of teaching strategies. Researchers
who have studied instructors’ uses of student response systems in higher
education label many of the strategies described below as ‘‘constructivist’’ or
‘‘student-centered,’’ in that the strategies call for significant roles and
responsibilities for students in the classroom in promoting a deep under-
standing of the subject matter (Dufresne, Gerace, Leonard, Mestre, & Wenk,
1996; Nicol & Boyle, 2003). Researchers believe these kinds of strategies are
widely adopted in conjunction with response systems to support greater
interactive engagement in class, even though early uses of response systems
emphasized privacy of responses and feedback and behavioral objec-
tives—such as pacing of lectures based on continuous student requests to
increase or decrease pace (Judson & Sawada, 2002).
There has been much attention across studies to what teachers must do to
teach effectively with response system technology (Abrahamson, Owens,
Demana, Meagher, & Herman, 2003; Dufresne et al., 1996; Mazur, 1997).
What constitutes effective use, however, depends upon instructors’ purposes
for using response systems, and these purposes vary widely. A chief goal of
many teachers is to promote greater interactive engagement with the subject
matter (Draper & Brown, 2004). These teachers often expect the system to
facilitate broader participation in class, both by having all students respond to
their questions and by engaging them in discussion focused on those questions
(Draper & Brown, 2004). Teachers often use response systems for assessment
purposes to find out how well students know material they are teaching
(Draper & Brown, 2004; Dufresne & Gerace, 2004). Sometimes, teachers use
the data from student responses formatively to adjust their instruction (Duf-
resne & Gerace, 2004).
A number of researchers have given particularly close attention to the
important role of questioning in teaching with response systems, both in
facilitating engagement and in diagnosing student understanding (Boyle, 1999;
Dufresne & Gerace, 2004; Poulis, Massen, Robens, & Gilbert, 1998). To
stimulate discussion, for example, researchers have suggested that questions
that yield divergent student responses are more effective than those that are
easy or lead all students to a single answer (Wit, 2003). For teachers using
response systems to assess student learning, it appears that questions that elicit
students’ pre-conceptions and that help teachers adapt their teaching to the
needs of students are most effective (Draper & Brown, 2004; Wit, 2003). The
timing of questions further shapes the nature of information an instructor
gains about student understanding. Questions posed after a lecture or expla-
nation can be used to check understanding (Dufresne et al., 1996). By con-
trast, posing questions before a lecture, tends to elicit pre-conceptions in ways
that can be used to shape instruction (Dufresne et al., 1996).
318 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
Structuring opportunities for peer or whole-class discussion appears to be
a critical aspect of promoting greater classroom interaction with response
systems (Dufresne & Gerace, 1994; Judson & Sawada, 2002). Researchers
have observed that discussion facilitates students’ thinking about alternate
ways of thinking about a concept or problem (Dufresne et al., 1996) and
aids in developing deeper student understanding of the meaning of con-
cepts (Judson & Sawada, 2002). Explaining to peers is believed by some to
be what makes it more effective in helping transform students’ miscon-
ceptions (Judson & Sawada, 2002). Response systems facilitate discussion
by providing an anchor (aggregate responses on a shared display) and set
of artifacts with which students can use to build knowledge (Truong,
Griswold, Ratto, & Star, 2002).
Some researchers have also explored the effects of associating student
responses to class grades. Some of these researchers report that this
practice served as an incentive for students to participate (Burnstein &
Lederman, 2001; Fagen, Crouch, & Mazur, 2002). Others, however, have
argued that using the system primarily to grade students takes away from
the learning environment (Dufresne & Gerace, 2004; Ganger & Jackson,
2003). Researchers at the University of Colorado, for example, have
found that the heightened accountability placed on students makes some
of them anxious (Ganger & Jackson, 2003). Students who were coming to
class for the first time tended to be disruptive; many resented that par-
ticipation in class could be more accurately measured by the response
systems. The use of the system itself in class appears to exert some
pressure for students to participate (Nicol & Boyle, 2003), and some
researchers have suggested that a shared classroom display makes it hard
for students to ‘‘hide’’ even though responses are for the most part
anonymous (Nicol & Boyle, 2003).
Researchers acknowledge that not all subject matters lend themselves
well to the kinds of factual and conceptual questions response systems are
designed to accommodate best (Stuart, Brown, & Draper, 2004). Research
in response systems has focused primarily on the domains of physics,
engineering, and computer science, where the ability to give specific,
accurate answers to conceptual questions is critical (Draper & Brown,
2004). Researchers have therefore argued that effective teaching with
response systems will depend on scaling out from these subject areas to
humanities and social sciences courses, where it may be useful to pose
different kinds of questions to students, about such topics as their perceived
interest or boredom in class or their perspectives on some social or his-
torical issue (Anderson, Anderson, VanDeGrift, Wolfman, & Yasuhara,
2003; DiGiano et al., 2003; Piazza, 2002; Stuart et al., 2004; Sung, Gips,
Eagle, DeVaul, & Pentland, 2004). A principle emerging from findings
across a range of disciplines is that teachers need a broad array of ques-
tions mapped to their curriculum to make effective use of response systems
(Dufresne & Gerace, 2004; Fagen, Crouch, & Mazur, 2002).
Teaching with response systems 319
123
Bridging to teaching in K-12 settings: some initial expected practices
Based on our review of research on use of response technology in higher
education, we anticipated that teachers’ goals for using response system would
vary at the elementary and secondary level, just as they do in higher educa-
tion. For example, some teachers might be under pressure to improve stan-
dardized test scores, and they may view student response systems as a means
to help them diagnose how well students are likely to perform on end-of-year
tests. They might also use the systems to prepare students to perform well on
those tests. Such a trend toward use of educational technology for diagnostic
assessment and test preparation is increasingly evident in the field today
(Means, Roschelle, Penuel, Sabelli, & Haertel, 2003). Alternately, some
teachers might want to use the technology to enhance student engagement,
much in the way technology has been reported to improve motivation in
elementary and secondary education in the past (Means & Olson, 1995;
Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997).
We also expected that many of the same pedagogical strategies used in
higher education will also be used in elementary and secondary education
settings. These strategies include posing conceptually focused questions,
requiring students to answer questions, displaying student responses for all to
see, and engaging students in discussion of their responses to teacher ques-
tions. Despite differences between university and K-12 students in their
expected level of knowledge and skills, we anticipated that the same strategies
would be used because the technological affordances of response systems
seem to support convergence on these practices across a wide range of higher
education settings (Roschelle et al., 2004). Even though practitioners have
developed slightly different models of teaching practice—such as Peer
Instruction (Mazur, 1997), Interactive Engagement (Hake, 1998), and
Assessing to Learn (Dufresne & Gerace, 2004)—all of the models have
common elements and emphases on questioning, displaying student responses,
and discussing student responses.
We anticipated, too, though, that there may be differences that arise in
teachers’ goals and practices for different subjects, different class sizes, and
teacher characteristics. As has been found in higher education settings, for
example, we expect that subject matter will make a difference in how teachers
pose questions and structure discussions. And in contrast to higher education
settings, we expected that the smaller class size may lead teachers to adopt
different kinds of practices. However, because there has been so little
empirical work to test this conjecture, we could not at the outset of our study
speculate as to how class size might affect teachers’ goals and practices.
Finally, we expected that there might be a relationship between teachers’
instructional philosophy and their approach to integrating student response
systems into their instruction. Past research has found that teachers who have
a more student-centered, constructivist philosophy of instruction are more
likely to adopt new technologies in the classroom (Becker & Anderson,
1998a).
320 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
The current study
The current study presents an analysis of how teachers in K-12 settings use
student response system technology. Through a survey of teachers who use
one company’s technology with students in class, we sought to answer the
following research questions:
For what purposes do K-12 teachers use student response system tech-
nologies?
Can we identify distinct ‘‘profiles of use’’ of response systems among
teachers using these systems?
If so, are such profiles associated with particular characteristics of teachers,
classrooms, or professional development experiences?
Do perceptions of the effects of response systems on teaching and learning
correlate with particular profiles of use?
The study was part of a larger grant awarded to SRI International by the
National Science Foundation. That grant had at its chief aim to help plan for a
large-scale, experimental study of the effectiveness of student response sys-
tems in science education. The survey study was intended in part to support
the planning of the research by helping establish the feasibility of conducting
such a study in an elementary or secondary setting. Because so little research
had been conducted at this level, researchers were concerned that teaching
practice might not have matured enough to lend itself well to a formal
experimental test. The study was also intended to help researchers build a
model of teaching practice that might be used in a future study, if it proved
feasible to conduct a study at the K-12 level.
Method
Study design
At this initial stage of work to address these questions, we relied on a large-
scale survey study of K-12 teachers. Survey research is often useful for
establishing the prevalence and frequency of particular instructional practices
(Desimone & Le Floch, 2004). Critics of survey research have suggested
teachers are likely to respond to surveys in ways that are biased toward
socially desirable respondents, but bias is low and reliability of teacher self-
report data is high with surveys that seek to measure frequency of behaviors
and teachers’ use of particular pedagogical strategies (Garet, Porter, Desi-
mone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001; Herman, Klein, & Abedi, 2000; Koziol &
Burns, 1986; Mullens, 1998; Ross et al., 1997). Furthermore, studies have
shown that there is a high correlation between observed and self-reported
instructional practice and teacher experiences (Burnstein et al., 1995; Mayer,
1999; Smithson & Porter, 1994).
Teaching with response systems 321
123
The primary focus of our questions and analysis is on the kinds of response
items regarding practice, objective background data, and teachers’ reported
beliefs that have been found to yield valid information from surveys in the
past. Although we did also ask teachers to report on perceived effectiveness of
using response system technologies, we view these data as preliminary and
recognize that they represent teacher beliefs, perceptions, and self-reports of
practices, rather than objective data on instructional practice and student
participation and achievement. These self-reported data, however, offer
important information regarding how teachers perceive the links among goals,
teaching strategies, and outcomes.
Technology
All survey respondents were current users of eInstruction’s Classroom
Performance System. Among other capabilities, this system allows users to
perform tasks that are considered essential by researchers in this area: pose
questions in the system, collect and aggregate student responses, and display
them in a histogram or other summary form. To use the system, a desktop or
laptop computer is required, as are eInstruction’s response pads (‘‘clickers’’)
and infrared- or radio-frequency enabled receiver unit.
Sample
A total of 584 K-12 teachers from schools and districts across the United
States completed at least part of the online questionnaire. Of these 35.7%
(n = 209) were elementary school teachers, 29.7% (n = 174) were middle
school teachers, and 34.4% (n = 201) were high school teachers. The median
years taught for the sample was 11 years. The teachers in the sample had been
using the CPS for a median of two semesters at the time they completed the
survey. Nearly all (94%) had adopted the CPS by choice, most often having
been offered the opportunity to use it by someone else at no cost to them-
selves.
The teachers in the sample used the CPS systems for a variety of subjects,
across different levels of the educational system. Table 1 shows how many
teachers at each level reported using student response system technology for
different subjects. The number is larger than the total number of teachers
because some teachers use the system for multiple subjects.
As the table above indicates, elementary school teachers were most likely
to use the CPS across subject matters, in all likelihood because they have
responsibility for multiple subjects in the curriculum. The plurality of middle
school teachers used the system for mathematics, with a substantial percent-
age of teachers also using the system for science and English/Language Arts.
In high school, the plurality used the CPS for science, with significant per-
centages also using the system for mathematics and English/Language Arts.
Respondents who marked ‘‘other’’ were not asked to describe their use.
322 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
It is important to note that it is not possible to determine how represen-
tative this sample was of the population of teachers using response system
technologies. CPS users represent just one group of users, and we chose
eInstruction’s technology because of its popularity and because of their
database of users. This database included approximately 1,000 users in dis-
tricts and schools spread across the U.S. Again, despite the spread of users
across the U.S., we cannot determine how representative the sample was of
practices across the U.S. It is important to note that our analyses did not
require a representative sample; instead, what was necessary was to obtain a
high level of variability in both independent and dependent variables. Our
sample proved adequate in this respect.
Instrument
The study relied on a single questionnaire divided into six sections developed
by the researchers. Our team’s group analysis of the alignment of the
instrument with the existing research base was a primary basis for establishing
the content validity of the questionnaire. We also used pilot data from two
teachers to establish that their responses to our questions were as intended.
Reliability statistics are reported in the results section, and we calculated them
for the actual survey responses.
The first section asked teachers to report how many years they had been
teaching, the grade levels to which they were assigned, the subjects in which
they used response system technology, number of semesters they had been
teaching with the system, and access to professional development. There were
two professional development items: one asked teachers to report how much
training time they had received in the technical aspects of the system (response
options were: 0 h, <1 h, 1–4 h, 4–8 h, >8 h), and the second item asked about
training in pedagogical aspects of the system (same response options). The
final question in this section asked teachers to indicate the percentage of
Table 1 Teachers’ use of the CPS in different subjects
Subject Elementary
school teachers
Middle school
teachers
High school
teachers
English/Language Arts 160 (76.6%) 59 (33.9%) 37 (18.4%)
Mathematics 153 (73.2%) 63 (36.2%) 47 (23.4%)
Social Studies 127 (60.8%) 3 (1.7%) 30 (14.9%)
Science 128 (61.2%) 54 (31.0%) 52 (25.9%)
Biology Not asked 31 (17.8%) 27 (13.4%)
Chemistry Not asked 13 (7.4%) 20 (10.0%)
Physics Not asked 9 (5.2%) 13 (6.5%)
Integrated Science/Earth
or Physical Science
Not asked 44 (25.3%) 25 (12.4%)
Foreign Languages Not asked 3 (1.7%) 4 (2.0%)
Other Not asked 39 (22.4%) 4 (2.0%)
Teaching with response systems 323
123
students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch or from different cultural
groups in classes where teachers used response systems.
The second section focused on specific uses of response systems. It included
a question about how often teachers can access the system in their classrooms,
how often they use it (less than once a month, once or twice a month, once a
week, 2 or 3 days a week, or usually every day). This section also included a
17-item question about what specific pedagogical practices teachers employ
when using the response system. Subquestions asked about teachers’ ques-
tioning strategies, use of displays, small-group discussion, whole-class discus-
sion, and use of data for instructional decision making. For each, teachers
were to indicate how often they engage in the practice when using the system
(hardly ever/never, sometimes, most of the time, nearly every time).
The third section focused on teachers’ goals for using response systems.
This section was comprised of a single, 12-part question in which teachers
were to indicate how important particular goals were for them in using the
system on a scale from 1 (very unimportant) to 7 (very important). We listed a
range of purposes for using the system identified in the research, including
formative purposes (aimed primarily at improving or adjusting instruction
using feedback from the system) and summative purposes (aimed primarily at
making judgments about student learning).
The fourth section asked teachers to report on their pedagogical beliefs.
This section was intended to elicit the extent to which teachers endorsed more
or less constructivist views of teaching in which students were expected to
have central roles in peer and whole-class discussion. These were 16
researcher-constructed items adapted from (Becker & Anderson, 1998b) and
designed to map onto potential uses of response systems, in which teachers
were to respond on a scale from 1 (not at all true) to 5 (very true) for each
statement.
The fifth section focused on perceived effects of using response system
technology. Teachers were to indicate their level of agreement with each of 19
statements of possible effects reported in the research on student response
systems. These include statements such as, ‘‘Students are more actively
engaged in a CPS class than in others,’’ and ‘‘The CPS helps me tell if the
students understand a concept.’’ The response options for each statement
were: strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree, and
strongly agree.
The sixth and final section asked teachers to indicate what science topics
they taught as part of their instruction, if they taught science. Their responses
to this item were not used in the analysis of data reported here.
Procedure
All participants were contacted via a company newsletter and company rep-
resentatives to solicit their participation. Participants were given a 17-week
period during the winter of 2004–2005 to complete the survey. SRI provided a
$10 gift certificate to all respondents who completed a questionnaire; as a
324 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
further incentive to complete the questionnaire, all respondents were entered
in a drawing to win one of five CPS systems, donated by eInstruction. Winners
were selected at random by SRI.
Data analysis
Analysis of teachers’ goals for using response systems, pedagogical practices,
and perceived effects
We first performed a categorical exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to
identify the factor structures for two sets of items: (a) items intended to
elicit the salience of particular goals for using the system and (b) items
intended to elicit the frequency of teachers’ use of particular pedagogical
practices in conjunction with response systems. EFA provides the number
of factors or underlying constructs as well as the patterns of the factor
loadings. In order to determine the number of factors, we used combination
of the Kaiser rule, the examination of the model fit, as well as the inter-
pretability of the factor loadings. Promax rotation method was used to
facilitate the interpretation of the factor loadings when the factors had
moderate correlations (< .3). To determine whether the item should be one
of the indicators of a given underlying factor, we used the most common
practice of minimum cut-off for factor loadings of .30. For each of the
survey items that load on particular factors, we report on overall mean
scores and standard deviations related to teacher goals; for each of the
associated pedagogical practices, we report means and standard deviations
associated with particular profiles of use identified through latent class
analysis (described below).
Identification of profiles of use
We used latent class analysis (LCA) to identify distinct profiles of use of
student response systems among the teachers who responded to our ques-
tionnaire. Latent class analysis (LCA) is a statistical technique that is some-
times described as the categorical analogue to factor analysis with categorical
indicators and an underlying categorical latent variable. LCA can be consid-
ered a person-centered analysis where the goal of the analysis is to understand
the similarities and differences in response patterns across individuals in the
data set. Similar response patterns are then grouped together into general
profiles of responses, defined by a certain set of item response category
probabilities. Thus, there are a finite number of response profiles (much
smaller than the total number of observed response patterns), each defining a
latent class, and probability of each individual’s membership in each profile is
computed. Modal profile class assignment is done by placing individuals in the
profile classes for which they have the highest estimated probability of
membership. Correlates of profile class membership can also be investigated
within the LCA model or post-hoc, based on modal class assignment. Thus,
Teaching with response systems 325
123
LCA is a model-based approach to cluster analysis with categorical variables
(see Zhang, 2004).
The first step in an LCA is to determine the number of latent classes, K,
that adequately summarizes the different response patterns on the observed
items. Like EFA, there is no statistical procedure for testing the number of
latent classes but there are several information-theoretic techniques for
comparing models with varying numbers of latent class profiles. The
Bayesian information criterion (BIC) is often applied to the problem of
latent class enumeration (Schwartz, 1978). This index is based on a function
of the model log likelihood with a penalty for the number of parameters
estimated relative to the sample size. Comparing across models, the lowest
BIC level indicates a preferred model. There is also an empirically based
likelihood ratio test (LMR-LRT), developed by Lo, Mendel, and Rubin
(2001) for finite mixture models, that has shown promise in latent class
enumeration in the LCA setting based on preliminary simulation studies.
For this index, each K-class model is compared to a (K-1) class model with
a significant p-value indicating a significant model improvement with an
additional class. Summaries of the classification uncertainty such as entropy-
based measures are also used to evaluate model quality (Ramasway, DeS-
arbo, Reibstein, & Robinson, 1993). Entropy is a index ranging from zero
to one with a value of one indicating perfect classification and a value of
zero indicating classification no better than random assignment to latent
classes. In addition to these information heuristics, the intended use of the
resultant classes and other substantive considerations, such as the inter-
pretability and face validity of the classes, should also guide the class
enumeration process.
Once the number of classes has been selected, the final LCA model yields
class-specific item response category probabilities and overall class propor-
tions as well as estimated profile class membership probabilities for each
individual. In the case of the CPS teacher survey, each CPS use item had four
response categories. The class-specific item probabilities can be used to
understand the character of the classes. The class proportions represent esti-
mates of the profile class prevalence in the population from which the sample
was drawn. The estimated profile class membership probabilities can be used
to assign each case to his/her most likely latent class profile.
For this analysis, a post-hoc investigation of correlates of CPS use latent
class membership was conducted based on modal class assignment. This
analysis is somewhat less conservative because it does not account for the
uncertainty of class membership and should be treated as a more descriptive
and exploratory technique. However, with estimated classification precision as
high as we found for the final model, there is likely to be little difference in the
inferences regarding the possible correlates and there is an ease in describing
and interpreting the relationships between the use profiles and covariates of
interest that is not present when including such correlates simultaneously
within the LCA framework.
326 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
Analysis of relationships between cluster membership and teacher
and classroom characteristics, goals, perceived effects, and professional
development experiences
After selecting a solution for the number of classes from our dataset, modal
class assignment was made for each case based on the class probabilities with
individuals assigned to CPS use latent classes for which they had the highest
posterior class probability. The distributions of teacher characteristics, fre-
quency of CPS use, and teacher perceptions were compared across the four
latent classes. Using chi-square analyses, we examined whether there were
significant associations between CPS use latent class membership and years
teaching; the frequency of use of other kinds of computer technology in
teaching; frequency of CPS use; level and subjects taught; experience with
using response system technology; teaching philosophy (more traditional
versus constructivist); the amount of professional development received on
instructional strategies to use in conjunction with the CPS; and perceptions of
CPS effects. Perception items were averaged according to the three dimen-
sions suggested by the EFA and the benefit items were averaged into a single
score. We also conducted post-hoc analyses to analyze whether or not dif-
ferences between responses of pairs of profiles of response system users were
significantly different from one another.
All latent variable analyses, i.e., all factor and latent class analyses, were
carried out with Mplus version 3.12 (Muthe
´
n & Muthe
´
n, 2004). All descriptive
analyses were conducted with SPSS version 12.0.
Results
We report on the results of three different kinds of analyses. First, we report
on results of categorical exploratory factor analysis for each of the scales and
subscales generated for our study: teachers’ goals, teachers’ practices and
teachers’ perceptions of effects of using response systems. We used these data
to inform the second set of results on which we report, the identification of
latent class profiles or clusters of teachers on the basis of their response to our
scales. We describe these profiles and their characteristics in the second sec-
tion. In the third set of analyses, we analyzed the relationship between profile
membership and background characteristics and reported outcomes.
Teachers’ goals for use
The categorical exploratory factor analysis suggested two fundamental types
of goals for using student response systems (Table 2). The first goal may be
described as a goal construct focused on improving learning and instruction,
and represents agreement with such questionnaire items as ‘‘To promote
student learning’’ or ‘‘To stimulate class discussion about an idea or concept.’’
The second construct is a goal construct that is related to assessing learning
Teaching with response systems 327
123
and improving teaching efficiency. This construct represents agreement with
questionnaire items such as ‘‘To assess student learning (where the assessment
counts toward grades)’’ and ‘‘To save time required for scoring formal or
informal assessment.’’ Both of these goals are similar to ones researchers
report teachers adopt in higher education settings and are consistent as well
with reported outcomes in research on the use of student response systems in
higher education settings.
Although particular teachers’ goals did vary as expected, the sample means
and standard deviations for each of the items given in Table 2 indicate that
teachers in the sample as a whole tended to value both instructional
improvement and assessment goals equally when using student response sys-
tems. Increasing the effectiveness of instruction, as well as improving assess-
ment and teaching efficiency, were rated as important goals by teachers.
Teachers were somewhat less likely to report that they used response systems
to help differentiate instruction; this result is not surprising, however, given
that other applications of technology may be better designed to support this
goal.
Table 2 above also displays the standardized item factor loadings—these
can be understood as the correlation between each factor and the categorical
Table 2 Teachers’ goals for CPS use: mean ratings of importance and factor loadings
Goal MSDFactor Item
reliabilities
Improving
instruction
Improving
assessment
Improving learning and instruction
To gain a better understanding of what students
do and do not understand
4.56
a
.79 .77 .20 .84
To promote student learning 4.55 .79 .90 .02 .84
To increase the effectiveness
of instruction overall
4.50 .83 .70 .28 .83
To increase student attention and activity
during lectures
4.34 .95 .82 .01 .69
To make students more aware of their
conceptual understanding
4.33 .91 .92 –.05 .80
To stimulate class discussion about an idea
or concept
4.17 1.03 .87 –.07 .69
To differentiate or individualize instruction 3.12 1.03 .59 .25 .60
To enhance feedback to students about their
understanding of target concepts and ideas
4.23 1.01 .78 .18 .82
To get instant feedback from students 4.62 .76 .51 .46 .79
Improving assessment and teaching efficiency
To increase teacher productivity 4.33 .92 .22 .71 .76
To save time required for scoring formal or
informal assessment
4.28 1.05 –.15 1.02
b
.87
To assess student learning
(for purposes of assigning grades)
4.24 1.02 .25 .62 .65
a
Importance rating; scale: 1 = not important; 5 = very important
b
Residual variances were all positive
328 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
response item. The table also shows the overall item reliabilities. These reli-
abilities are essentially the proportions of variance in each item explained by
the latent factors. These values were high, ranging from .60 to .87, suggesting
that the items in the Goals subscales were reasonably precise measures of the
underlying constructs.
Teachers’ pedagogical practices
The categorical exploratory factor analysis suggested five different constella-
tions of teaching practices that were associated with one another (Table 3). A
first factor relates to assigning tasks to gauge students’ understanding of subject
matter content. The items comprised in this construct include ‘‘Ask students
to use the system to answer a multiple-choice question about the subject-
matter content you are teaching’’ (1b) and ‘‘Use the CPS for review of content
(e.g., as ‘quiz game’ or to check understanding or recall of previously covered
material)’’ (1c). A second factor can be described as posing diagnostic ques-
tions to elicit student thinking, often before students can be expected to fully
understand a concept. These are ‘‘take the pulse’’ kinds of assessments, often
conducted on the fly by teachers. This construct represents items such as ‘‘Use
the ‘Verbal Question’ mode to pose questions that you pose ‘on the fly’ and
have students answer with the CPS’’ (2a) or ‘‘Ask students to use the system
to answer a multiple-choice question at the beginning of class, before begin-
ning the day’s lesson’’ (2b). A third factor pertains to the use of displays.
Although they were only two items in the third factor, the items representing
how the student responses are displayed to the students seemed to represent
separate construct. A fourth factor relates to the use of discussion of student
responses. This construct represents items such as (4a) ‘‘Ask students to dis-
cuss their answers with a neighbor or peer after registering an initial answer/
vote’’ and (4c) ‘‘Ask students to answer/vote again after discussing an answer
with a peer.’’ The fifth construct pertains primarily to teachers’ use of data to
adjust instruction. The items under this construct include ‘‘Decide to adjust
your lesson plan for the next class session on the basis of how students
responded to a question’’ (5a) and ‘‘Use the feedback from the CPS to make
changes in your instruction during class’’ (5c).
The overall reliabilities of the items were moderately high, ranging from .31
to .77. Two items related to whole-class involvement in conjunction with CPS
use (‘‘Ask students to identify themselves to the whole class as answering in a
particular way’’ and ‘‘Facilitate a whole-class discussion of students’ ideas
after displaying a distribution of student responses’’) had a low factor loadings
on all five constructs, suggesting they were poor items for measuring any of
the subscales. Even though the first of these two items met the .30 standard-
ized loading cut-off for one of the factors, it did so just barely and there was
near equal size loading of .29 on one of the other factors. For this item,
teachers reported ‘‘hardly ever’’ asking students to identify their responses to
the whole class (M = 1.22, SD = .54, where 1 = hardly ever/never and
2 = sometimes). This is dissimilar to the whole-class discussion item where
Teaching with response systems 329
123
Table 3 Teaching (CPS) standardized item factor loadings
Item Check content
understanding
Pose diagnostic
questions
Share
or hide
display
Ask students
to discuss or
rethink answers
Use feedback
to adjust
instruction
Reliabilities
of the item
Prepare questions ahead of time .52 –.38 –.01 .07 .10 .32
Ask questions about content .75 .16 .05 –.04 –.17 .68
Review of content, e.g., ‘‘quiz game’’ .51 .00 .07 .02 –.04 .49
Administer quiz or test .44 .08 –.31 –.21 .14 .38
Review record of data on student responses .52 –.10 –.03 .00 .23 .69
Use ‘‘verbal question’’ mode to pose questions ‘‘
on the fly’’
–.25 .71 .07 .02 .09 .31
Ask questions at the beginning of class .08 .57 .06 –.06 –.04 .41
Ask questions in middle of class .27 .58 .07 .05 –.15 .54
Ask about something other than content .05 .69 –.08 .00 –.07 .68
Display responses .19 .02 .68 –.03 .24 .77
Hide responses .06 .01 .71 .07 –.02 .53
Ask students to discuss answers before responding .04 –.02 .01 .88 –.11 .66
Ask students to discuss answers after responding .04 –.03 –.04 .81 .05 .38
Ask students to enter new response after discussion –.03 .07 –.03 .87 –.05 .72
Ask students to enter new response after explanation .01 .14 –.01 .58 .12 .66
Use to adjust next lesson .22 .00 .08 .10 .61 .31
Prepare alternate versions of lessons .05 .27 –.20 .05 .38 .41
Use to adjust instruction in class –.04 .15 .10 –.06 .81 .54
Use to evaluate instructional effectiveness .23 –.05 .12 –.06 .69 .68
Ask students to identify responses in display –.17 .29 –.17 .33 .14 .40
Discuss answers with class as a whole .23 .17 .29 .21 .13 .32
330 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
teachers reported ‘‘sometimes’ using whole-class discussion (M = 2.23,
SD = .656, where 2 = sometimes and 3 = most of the time) as a pedagogical
strategy among teachers.
Table 4 shows how frequently teachers in the sample used the other
teaching strategies when they employ student response systems in class. All of
the specific strategies we queried were employed by K-12 teachers, but the
levels with which teachers in the sample used particular strategies varied
widely. In general, teachers were more likely to assign tasks designed to help
them gauge students’ understanding of subject matter and to use feedback to
adjust their instruction than they were to pose diagnostic questions or to
engage students in discussing and reflecting on their answers to questions.
Perceived effects of response system use
Just as the goal and pedagogical strategy constructs are consistent with those
reported in higher education, the constructs we derived from the factor
analysis for perceived effects on classroom processes are consistent with
reported effects of student response systems in higher education, just as we
initially expected (Table 5).
Based on the promax rotation results of a three-factor model, we’ve gen-
erated three possible constructs to explain the factor loading patterns. Items
loaded on one construct seem to represent effects related to student learning
and how to monitor student progress. The items in this construct include ‘‘The
CPS helps me tell if the students understand a concept,’’ and ‘‘I have better-
quality information about students’ understanding through the use of the
CPS’’. A second construct seems to suggest items related to the motivational
affordances of the classroom environment. The items under this construct
include ‘‘Students are more actively engaged in a CPS class than in others’’
and ‘‘Students are more willing to think hard about an issue when questions
are posed with the CPS’’. Items loaded on a final construct seem to be related
to all the items soliciting negative (opposite) response. This construct repre-
sents items such as ‘‘Class dynamics are not affected by the use of the CPS,’’
and ‘‘There is no advantage in using the CPS to help students build on their
previous knowledge.’’ Table 6 below shows the mean ratings teachers
assigned to the first two perceived effects constructs.
Profiles of use
We sought to identify distinct classroom profiles of use from teachers’
responses to the questions about the pedagogical strategies they employed
when using the CPS. Our purpose in identifying profiles was first to determine
whether there were distinct patterns of use that were evident from the data
and to then examine whether particular use patterns correlated with other
factors such as perceived effectiveness, teachers’ instructional philosophy, and
classroom characteristics.
Teaching with response systems 331
123
Table 4 Reported pedagogical practices employed in conjunction with response system use
Factor/Item MSD
Check students’ content understanding
1a. Prepare ahead of time the questions
you will ask students using the CPS
3.34 .84
1b. Ask students to use the system to answer
a multiple-choice question about
the subject-matter content you are teaching
2.85 .96
1c. Use the CPS for review of content (e.g., as
‘‘quiz game’’ or to check understanding
or recall of previously covered material)
2.67 .96
1d. Use the CPS to administer a quiz or test to students 2.66 1.00
1e. Review the CPS record of data on student responses,
to see how individuals or groups
of students answered questions
3.06 .97
Pose ‘‘Take the Pulse’’ diagnostic questions
2a. Use the ‘‘Verbal Question’’ mode to pose questions
that you pose ‘‘on the fly’’ and
have students answer with the CPS
1.60 .71
2b. Ask students to use the system to answer a
multiple-choice question at the beginning of class,
before beginning the day’s lesson
1.71 .82
2c. Ask students to use the system to answer a
multiple-choice question in the middle of class,
in the midst of the day’s lesson
1.80 .80
2d. Ask students to use the system to answer
a multiple-choice question about something other
than subject-matter content (e.g., their level
of engagement or understanding at the moment)
1.62 .78
Share or hide display
3a. Display a distribution of student responses
to a question for all to see
2.60 1.09
3b. Hide the distribution of student responses
from students
1.76 .93
Ask students to discuss or rethink their answers
4a. Ask students to discuss their answers with a
neighbor or peer before registering an initial
answer/vote
1.57 .68
4b. Ask students to discuss their answers with a
neighbor or peer after registering an initial answer/vote
1.63 .73
4c. Ask students to answer/vote again after discussing
an answer with a peer
1.50 .66
4d. Ask students to vote/answer again after presenting
an explanation of the idea or concept you are testing
1.72 .75
Use feedback to adjust instruction
5a. Decide to adjust your lesson plan for the next class
session on the basis of how students responded to a question
2.56 .95
5b. Plan ahead of time and prepare two different lessons,
or components of lessons, in order to have both ready
to use (depending on how students respond to a question you pose)
1.64 .88
5c. Use the feedback from the CPS to make changes in your
instruction during class
2.45 .96
5d. Use the feedback from the CPS to help you evaluate
the effectiveness of your teaching
2.99 .89
Scale: 1 = Hardly ever/never, 2 = Sometimes, 3 = Most of the time, 4 = nearly every time
332 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
To select the number of classes for the final LCA model, a series of models
with increasing class numbers was fit using all 21 of the CPS use items, each
with four ordered response categories. Table 7 summarizes the fit criteria of
one-class to five-class models. The model was not identified for six classes. The
BIC was lowest for the four-class model, indicating that this latent class model
was the best fit for the data. The entropy continues to improve with increasing
class number. The LMR-LRT favors the three-class over the four-class model
and the four-class over the five-class. Examining the specific class item
probabilities, the four-class model was chosen as the final LCA because the
further division compared to the three-class model appeared to delineate
substantively relevant latent use profiles.
Table 8 below shows how frequently the members of different classes of use
or profiles engaged in particular pedagogical practices. The rows are the
factors we identified for pedagogical practices; the specific item response
categories represent averages for individual items under each factor. In the
columns, we list the classes and for each response category, the probability of
people in that class giving that particular response.
Below we describe in greater detail in narrative form the different pro-
files of use and typical uses of response systems among teachers with each
profile.
Table 5 Effects of CPS: standardized item factor loadings
Item Learning Engagement Negative
response
Reliabilities
of the item
Teacher awareness of
conceptual understanding
.70 .06 .07 .66
Classroom interactions that
facilitate learning
.53 .29 .08 .62
Student awareness of student
understanding
.54 –.01 .09 .36
Better quality assessment data
for teachers
.72 .13 .07 .73
More timely data for teachers .80 –.14 .18 .71
More useful data for teachers .67 .20 –.02 .62
Student conceptual understanding .50 .42 .09 .76
Connections to students’ prior
knowledge
.39 .41 –.01 .49
Student engagement .27 .42 .16 .53
Student effort .19 .63 –.06 .53
Sense of community –.03 .74 .10 .60
Sense of community (reverse) –.23 .43 .62 .59
Class dynamics (reverse) .01 –.14 .54 .24
Building on previous knowledge
(reverse)
.18 –.04 .70 .63
On task behavior (reverse) .08 .06 .60 .46
Teacher knowledge of student
understanding (reverse)
.17 .00 .58 .48
Student understanding (reverse) .13 .13 .72 .78
Student effort (reverse) .08 .20 .63 .64
Teaching with response systems 333
123
Class 1: infrequent user
Teachers with this profile of use tended to use the CPS rarely. When they did
use the system, they tended not to use the full range of capabilities of the
system or not to use a variety of pedagogical strategies in conjunction with use
of the system. They rarely used data from the system to adjust their instruc-
tion. There were 63 teachers (12.7%) in the sample whose responses most
closely resembled this profile.
Table 6 Perceived effects of using the CPS
Factor/ Item MSD
Improved feedback on learning
The CPS helps me tell if the students
understand a concept
4.38
a
.62
Class interactions resulting from using
the CPS help student learning
4.24 .71
With the CPS, students can quickly tell
whether they are right or wrong
4.51 .83
I have better-quality information about
students’ understanding through the
use of the CPS
4.19 .774
By using the CPS, I have more timely
information about what students know
4.46 .68
I have been able to adapt instruction better
to specific student needs or misconceptions
by using the CPS
4.05 .79
Doing activities with the CPS in class helps
students get a better understanding of concepts
4.07 .69
Improved classroom environment
Doing activities in class with the CPS helps
students relate new material to things they
already know
3.80
b
.78
Students are more actively engaged in a CPS
class than in others
4.37 .76
Students are more willing to think hard about
an issue when questions are posed with the CPS
3.74 .85
There is a greater sense of community in a CPS
class than in other classes
3.71 .85
a
Scale for improved feedback and classroom environment items: 1–5 strongly disagree = 1; dis-
agree = 2; neither agree nor disagree = 3, agree = 4, strongly agree = 5
b
Scale for effects items: not at all = 1; slightly = 2; moderately = 3; substantially = 4; tremen-
dously = 5
Table 7 Fit criteria for latent class analysis models
Model Log L # of parameters BIC LMR-LRT Entropy
1-class –11,837.48 63 24,066.22 n/a n/a
2-class –11,102.66 127 22,994.07 p < .001 .88
3-class –10,694.29 191 22,574.81 p = .008 .89
4-class –10,484.92 255 22,553.54 p = .307 .89
5-class –10,303.97 319 22,589.13 p = 1.000 .92
334 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
Class 2: teaching self-evaluator
Teachers with this profile of use tended to use the CPS often, and they used
the system primarily to gain feedback on the effectiveness of their own
teaching. They usually used the system for summative assessment purposes,
and less frequently for formative assessment purposes. They rarely involved
students in peer discussion, and only sometimes used the CPS to prompt
whole-class discussions. They occasionally used data from the system to adjust
their instruction. There were 137 teachers (27.5%) in the sample whose
responses were most consistent with this profile.
Class 3: broad but infrequent user
Teachers with this profile of use tended to use the CPS somewhat less fre-
quently than self-evaluators, but they used the system for a wider range of
purposes. When they used the system, they used it for formative assessment to
adjust instruction and summative assessment to make judgments about what
their students had learned. They sometimes involved students in peer
Table 8 Class-specific average item response category probabilities
Response
categories
Infrequent
users (13%)
Teaching
self-evaluators
(28%)
Broad but
infrequent
users (34%)
Broad and
frequent
users (26%)
Check students’ content understanding
Hardly ever/never .39 .09 .08 .03
Sometimes .19 .16 .46 .21
Most of the time .21 .24 .37 .37
Nearly every time .21 .51 .09 .39
Pose ‘‘Take the Pulse’’ diagnostic questions
Hardly ever/never .86 .65 .35 .27
Sometimes .10 .23 .55 .50
Most of the time .03 .06 .09 .17
Nearly every time .01 .06 .00 .06
Share or hide display
Hardly ever/never .45 .12 .08 .07
Sometimes .13 .13 .31 .15
Most of the time .13 .21 .39 .29
Nearly every time .29 .54 .22 .48
Ask students to discuss or rethink their answers
Hardly ever/never .97 .77 .41 .13
Sometimes .03 .14 .57 .58
Most of the time .00 .05 .02 .29
Nearly every time .00 .04 .00 .01
Use feedback to adjust instruction
Hardly ever/never .58 .09 .06 .01
Sometimes .22 .22 .58 .12
Most of the time .18 .32 .34 .43
Nearly every time .02 .37 .02 .45
Teaching with response systems 335
123
discussion, and sometimes they used the CPS to prompt whole-class discus-
sions. They occasionally used data from the system to adjust their instruction.
There were 173 teachers (34.7%) in the sample whose responses most closely
resembled this profile.
Class 4: broad and frequent user
Teachers with this profile of use tend to use the CPS frequently, and they used
the system for a wide range of purposes. When they used the system, they used
it for summative purposes and for formative purposes. They sometimes or
often involved students in peer discussion, and often they use the CPS to
prompt whole-class discussions. They sometimes used data from the system to
adjust their instruction. There were 125 teachers (25.1%) in the sample whose
responses were most consistent with this profile.
Significance of class membership
After selecting the 4-class solution, modal class assignment was made for each
case based on the class probabilities with individuals assigned to CPS use latent
classes for which they had the highest posterior class probability. The distri-
butions of teacher characteristics, frequency of CPS use, and teacher percep-
tions of effects were compared across the four latent classes. There were
significant associations between CPS use latent class membership and the
amount of professional development received on instructional strategies to use
in conjunction with the CPS; pedagogical beliefs or philosophy with respect to
the role of students in class discussions; the frequency of use of other kinds of
computer technology in teaching; frequency of CPS use; and perceptions of
CPS effects. Perception items were averaged according to the three dimensions
suggested by the exploratory factor analysis and the benefit items were aver-
aged into a single score. A detailed summary of these findings is given below.
Relationships between class membership and teacher characteristics
We found a significant association (v
2
(6) = 14.74, p = .02) between frequency
of use of other kinds of computer technology in teaching and CPS use latent
class membership. Those using other computer technologies 1–2 times per
month or less were most likely to be in the ‘‘infrequent user’’ class and least
likely to be in the ‘‘broad and frequent user’’ class, suggesting a possible
relationship between comfort with using technology in the classroom and
overall CPS use. At the same time, there was no significant association
between years of teaching and the CPS use latent class membership (F (3,
494) = 1.28; p = .28). Nor was there a significant association between the
number of semesters the CPS was used and CPS use latent class membership
(F (3,494) = 1.05; p = .37).
Consistent with what we had anticipated at the outset of the study, we also
found that teachers’ pedagogical philosophy was associated with their class
336 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
membership. Teachers who adopted a view that students ought to have
significant roles to play in directing classroom discussion were more likely to
be members of the class of broad and frequent users (F (3, 479) = 11.45;
p < .001). By contrast, teachers who adopted more traditional views that
teachers are to direct and control classroom discourse were more likely to be
in the classes of users who made less frequent use of the CPS (F (3, 479) =
4.609; p = .003).
Relationships between class membership and classroom characteristics
We had expected that subject matter and grade level might influence teachers’
decisions about how to use the CPS, since scholar-practitioners in higher
education have often reported needing to adapt models developed in physics
for students in other disciplines and at different levels of expertise. We were
thus surprised that we did not find a significant relationship between subject
matter and teaching practice or one between level taught (elementary, middle,
or high school) and class membership. There was no significant association
between subjects for which the CPS is used and CPS use latent class mem-
bership. There was no significant association between school level taught and
CPS use latent class membership (v
2
(6) = 6.90, p = .33).
Relationships between class membership and professional development
experiences
There was no significant association between how much training was received
related to the technical aspects of using the CPS and CPS use latent class
membership (v
2
(9) = 12.15; p = .21). However, we found a significant asso-
ciation (v
2
(9) = 23.44; p = .005) between amount of professional develop-
ment received on instructional strategies to use in conjunction with the CPS
and CPS use latent class membership. Increased training corresponded to an
increased likelihood of membership in both of the ‘‘broad and frequent user’’
classes and a notably decreased likelihood of membership in the ‘‘infrequent
user’’ class.
Relationships between class membership and perceived effects
For each of the perceived effects and benefits we analyzed, we found a rela-
tionship between class membership and teachers’ perceptions. First, we found
a significant association between perceptions of feedback on student learning
and CPS use latent class membership (F (3, 461) = 35.87; p < .001). Those
with the least positive perceptions were most likely to be in the ‘‘infrequent
user’’ class (Class 1) and those with the most positive perceptions were most
likely to be in the ‘‘broad and frequent user’’ class (Class 4) (Fig. 1).
Second, we found a significant association between perceptions of class-
room environment and student learning and CPS use latent class membership
(F (3, 461) = 10.98; p < .001). Those with the least positive perceptions were
Teaching with response systems 337
123
most likely to be in the ‘‘infrequent user’’ class (Class 1) and those with the
most positive perception were most likely to be in the ‘‘broad and frequent
user’’ class (Class 4) (Fig. 2).
Post-hoc comparisons using the Bonferroni adjustment found that overall,
the broad and frequent users were significantly higher, on average, than the
Fig. 1 Class 1 = infrequent users; Class 2 = teaching self-evaluators; Class 3 = broad but
infrequent users; Class 4 = broad and frequent users
Fig. 2 Class 1 = infrequent users; Class 2 = teaching self-evaluators; Class 3 = broad but
infrequent users; Class 4 = broad and frequent users
338 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
means of the other user profiles, with the exception of the mean self-reported
improved classroom environment for teaching self-evaluators (p < .01). For
that perceived effect, the broad and frequent users were higher, on average,
than all other groups except for teaching self-evaluators (p=.35). Similarly,
the means on self-reported benefits for the infrequent users were significantly
lower than the means of the other user profiles (p < .001 for feedback and
p = .01 for classroom environment). Identical inferences were obtained using
a MANOVA with post-hoc comparisons.
Table 9 summarizes the significant and non-significant relationships
between class profiles and teacher characteristics, classroom characteristics,
professional development, and perceived effects.
Discussion
There was a remarkable similarity between teachers’ reported goals for using
student response systems in the K-12 settings of survey participants and goals
that researchers report higher education instructors adopt. K-12 teachers in
our sample used student response systems for both assessment and instruction.
These findings are consistent with research on student response systems in
higher education, which emphasizes effects of improved assessment data for
teachers and improved engagement and instructional experiences for students.
These findings are also consistent with research conducted by other
researchers in formative assessment, who emphasize that at its best, good
formative assessment becomes seamlessly integrated with good instruction
(National Research Council, 2001).
Our survey data did reveal that there was a significant difference among
CPS users in their goals for using the technology. The exploratory factor
analysis found a relatively lower correlation (r = .13) between items intended
Table 9 Significant and non-significant associations between profiles and teacher characteristics,
classroom characteristics, professional development, and perceived effects
Significant association Non-significant
association
Teacher
characteristics
Frequency of technology
use (p=.02)
Overall teaching
experience
Giving students’ roles in
discussion (p < .001)
Experience with CPS
Teacher preferring to direct
discussion (p = .003)
Classroom
characteristics
Subject matter taught
Level taught
Professional
development
Amount of professional
development focused
on instructional strategies (p = .005)
Amount of professional
development focused
on using the technology
Perceived effects Improved feedback (p < .001)
Improved Classroom Environment (p < .001)
Teaching with response systems 339
123
to tap formative assessment uses of the CPS and items intended to measure
more summative assessment uses of the system. The factor analysis also
indicated stronger correlations (r = .41) between items intended to tap for-
mative uses of the CPS and items intended to measure whether teachers used
the CPS in conjunction with peer discussion, a use associated more with
instructional uses of the system.
The factor structure of survey responses regarding pedagogical uses was a
particularly promising result from our study. Although the research in higher
education settings has generated several models and descriptions of what
teaching with student response systems looks like in these systems (e.g.,
Judson & Sewada, 2002), similar descriptions of K-12 systems use have not
been developed. Furthermore, systematic measures of practice—self-report or
observational—have not been developed for either setting. The fact that the
models of teaching with response systems developed for higher education
have been adopted by K-12 teachers is consistent with what we expected, but
it is also striking, in that the widespread use of response systems in elementary
and secondary education settings is a relatively new phenomenon. That such
robust practices can emerge quickly is promising and suggests the scalability of
practices that can improve student learning opportunities.
The profile of users who used the system for formative assessment and for
engaging students more in discussion of the CPS is of particular interest for
future studies, because of the significant correlations between membership in
this class and several other variables in our analysis. Frequent, broad users of
the CPS were much more likely to perceive the CPS as conferring a range of
benefits to themselves and to students. Ideally, professional development
would focus on helping teachers adopt the practices characteristic of this class
of users, especially the use of peer and whole-group discussion. The fact that
hours of professional development related to teaching strategies was correlated
with profile use suggests that teachers’ opportunities to learn may in fact
influence their adoption of strategies judged effective by researchers in higher
education, but an impact study would be necessary to test this hypothesis.
Critics of educational technologies often report that teachers make infre-
quent use of computers to support instruction and that when they do use
computers, they do so in ways that tend to support traditional instruction
(Cuban, 2001). Our findings suggest that the systems may be relatively easy to
learn, since technical training did not explain differences in uses of the system.
They also suggest, though, that when teachers participate in professional
development focused on how to teach in new ways with the technology, they
do adopt practices that do much more than support traditional instruction.
Increasingly, the importance of preparing teachers in this way specifically for
curriculum integration is being recognized in educational technology research
(Adelman et al., 2002; Becker, 1999; Kanaya, Light, & Culp, 2005; National
Center for Education Statistics, 2000). The fact that teachers in our sample
who reported having received professional development in how to integrate
response systems into their teaching made more use of the system in their
instruction is consistent with this finding.
340 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
Finally, we found a significant relationship between class membership and
teaching philosophy, with more constructivist teachers adopting the CPS more
frequently and in conjunction with a broader range of pedagogical strategies
with students. This finding, too, is consistent with earlier research on educa-
tional technology, which has found that teachers’ instructional philosophies, as
well as their beliefs about students’ capabilities and about the role of tech-
nology, play a significant role in shaping how they use computers in the
classroom (Becker & Anderson, 1998a; Jaillet, 2004; Means, Penuel, &
Padilla, 2001; Windschitl & Sahl, 2002). Although teachers may be slow to
change beliefs that are inconsistent with the idea that students’ ideas and
thinking can and should help guide classroom discussion, providing teachers
with examples of what happens when students do engage in productive dis-
cussions of ideas and encouraging them to try it in their classrooms may be an
effective strategy (Penuel & Yarnall, 2005).
Limitations of the study
Our study represents a first attempt by researchers to investigate teaching with
student response systems in K-12 settings. Most research has been conducted
on how these systems are used in higher education (see Roschelle et al., 2004,
for a review); our research was intended in part to explore the similarities and
differences between K-12 and higher education uses of the technology.
Although our sample was large, we cannot say whether it is a representative
sample of teachers. Teachers volunteered to complete the questionnaire, and
we had no means for selecting a sample systematically from a list of eIn-
struction customers to survey. Therefore, we cannot make claims about the
population prevalence of particular teaching practices used in conjunction
with response systems. However, as we have done here, we have attempted to
show for the teachers who did participate in the survey different profiles of use
and how they relate to perceived effects of using the CPS.
This study also does not allow us to determine what effects CPS use has on
teaching and learning, or whether it enhanced learning in any of the class-
rooms from which teachers were surveyed. In our study, there was no inde-
pendent measure of teaching practice or student learning; nor did we attempt
to design an impact study with random assignment. Instead, we relied on self-
report and a correlational approach to analysis in this study. Both independent
measures and a more rigorous design would be necessary to make claims
about the impact of using the CPS on student learning and engagement.
Finally, the findings from this study are likely to generalize to users of
systems with similar functionality to the CPS, but may or may not generalize
to response systems with different kinds of functionality. We chose the CPS as
a system to study because it is broadly used and representative of a class of
student response systems, in terms of its design and functionality. However,
there are other types of systems that combine response system functionality
with the ability to engage students in participatory simulations and modeling
Teaching with response systems 341
123
activities (Kaput & Hegedus, 2002; Stroup, 2002; Wilensky & Stroup, 2000).
These systems enable different forms of student participation, and they
require different forms of teaching from what have been documented in the
literature on the use of student response systems in higher education. The
teaching strategies that might be used with such systems have not been widely
implemented to date, however, and are not as susceptible to measurement as
were the practices we measured as part of our survey.
Conclusions and directions for future studies
From the survey study, we can conclude that many of the teaching practices
that researchers report instructors in higher education use in conjunction with
response system technology are also used at the K-12 level among our sample
of teachers. As in higher education, teachers use response system technology
for both instructional and assessment purposes. Many of them also use it to
stimulate peer and classroom discussion. As in higher education, there is a
sense that teachers believe both peer and classroom discussion are important
to making the system more effective in the classroom. A survey study alone,
however, cannot determine whether there exists a causal relationship between
particular practices and outcomes. An experimental study with more robust
measures of classroom practices and objective measures of student learning
would be necessary to draw conclusions about impact.
The survey results can help to inform the design of such an impact study: we
can generate some more specific hypotheses about teaching with response
systems that could be investigated. First, we would hypothesize that students
in classrooms where teachers use the systems frequently and in conjunction
with a broad range of teaching strategies will benefit more than would stu-
dents in classrooms where there are response systems but where those systems
are used less frequently and only for summative purposes. We would
hypothesize that the effects would be three-fold; there would be improved
feedback to students, an improved learning environment (facilitated by shared
knowledge of how well students understand material), and enhanced learning
and engagement. Finally, we would also hypothesize that teachers need to
receive professional development in how to teach with response systems in
order to adopt the systems to a level involving broad, frequent use with
students.
A number of researchers are now planning or beginning studies that will
investigate these and other hypotheses about the impacts of student response
systems in K-12 settings. Researchers at the Physics Education Research
Group University of Massachusetts, the Ohio State University, and at SRI
International are all among those involved with taking research on student
response systems to the next level. These studies are, however, just now
underway, and findings are not yet available. We view such research as critical
for advancing our understanding of best practice and for supporting scaling
efforts, because policymakers’ demand for research-based evidence of
342 W. R. Penuel et al.
123
effectiveness is increasingly a pre-requisite for adoption of new technologies
in K-12 settings. Because each of the investigators of these studies takes as a
premise that professional development must focus on teaching with response
system technologies, we are especially hopeful that there will be positive
evidence of effectiveness where teachers engage in broad and frequent use of
these systems with students in their classes.
Acknowledgments This material is based in part on work supported by the National Science
Foundation under Grant Number REC-0337793. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recom-
mendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the
views of the National Science Foundation. We thank Timothy Urdan of Santa Clara University
and Louis Abrahamson of Better Education Foundation for their assistance with designing the
survey, Willow Sussex for her management of survey data collection, Angela Haydel DeBarger for
her help with an earlier technical report presenting preliminary analyses of these data, and Jeremy
Roschelle for his guidance on the research project and helpful comments on the paper.
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Background: To enable all students to reach their full potential, teachers have to adapt their instruction to students’ varying needs. In order to do this, teachers need to engage in activities associated with formative assessment, as well as those associated with differentiation. However, both of these types of activities are, in themselves, difficult for teachers to carry out. Furthermore, as both fields tend to use their own terminology, frameworks, and cycles of teacher activities, it can be even more difficult for teachers to navigate both. Although the notion of the strong relationship between formative assessment and differentiation is not new, we argue that a better understanding of the close relationship between the two is needed in the context of teacher education. Purpose: Our aim was to develop a conceptual framework which offers teachers and teacher educators a coherent set of teacher activities in which both formative assessment and differentiation are represented. Sources of evidence: International literature in the fields of formative assessment and differentiation was reviewed. Through this process, we sought to identify, describe and compare teacher activities regarded as crucial for formative assessment and for differentiation. The review was based on extant review studies and frameworks used in both fields and handbooks on both topics. Main argument: Our analysis demonstrated that both approaches have much in common, but differ substantially in terms of the emphasis placed on different activities and the depth of elaboration. As such, we argue that the approaches complement each other well and that it is feasible to present teachers with one coherent set of teacher activities in which both approaches are unified. We propose a conceptual framework for Assessment-Informed Differentiation (AID), which involves a continual cycle of in-depth activities related to preparing and providing differentiated instruction based on assessment data. Conclusion: Formative assessment and differentiation approaches need to be treated as an integrated set of activities in order to realise the full potential of all students. Further research should focus on the usability and effectiveness of the proposed cycle. The conceptual framework we propose could ultimately be used in many different teacher education settings internationally, forming a starting point for much-needed teacher professional development in this area.
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