Academic journal article Journal of Information, Law and Technology

An Examination of Clicker Technology Use in Legal Education

Academic journal article Journal of Information, Law and Technology

An Examination of Clicker Technology Use in Legal Education

Article excerpt


1. Introduction
  1.1 What is a clicker?
  1.2 Background: Lectures and Interaction
  1.3 The Remit of the MMU LLB Study
2. Discussion
  2.1 Potential Reasons for Clicker Use
  2.2 Key General Themes
  2.3 Factors Inhibiting Clicker Uptake
3. How can clicker technology be employed to teach law?
  3.1 Overview
  3.2 Examples of Specific Teaching Strategies Employed in the MMU LLB
  3.3 General Considerations
4. Conclusion

1 Introduction

1.1 What is a clicker?

Clicker is a term employed in this paper and others to describe audience response systems which enable a lecturer to record student responses within the learning environment. Typically they are developed in the form of a handheld device with buttons resembling a mobile phone which allow for the transmission of numbers and letters. As with much educational technology there are commercial considerations inherent in institutional choice of clicker system. Due to an ongoing institutional trial, the clicker system employed in the MMU LLB study was provided by Promethean and included options for multiple choice, yes/no, true/false, numerical and freetext responses which could then be manipulated on the large screen of the lecture theatre. Lowery (2005) and Barber et al (2007) provide in-depth overviews of the available interactive systems and their relative merits.

1.2 Background: Lectures and interaction

While addressing issues relating to the delivery of lectures this paper does not seek to evaluate the theoretical rationale behind the initial decision to adopt the lecture as a teaching method. A body of work, within which Gibbs (1981) and Bligh (1998) are prominent influences, questions the effectiveness of a large lecture to promote deep learning and suggests that lectures operate as little more than a tool for dissemination of information. Notwithstanding this key debate, this paper operates within the constraints inherent in the operation of a large law school which, due to a variety of factors, and akin to the majority of law schools across the UK, has chosen to employ the lecture as a baseline teaching tool across the vast majority of modules presented. This paper will therefore move away from any discussion of the merits of a large lecture per se and will focus upon initiatives to develop strategies to harness available technology in a bid to encourage student participation and engagement.

The conventional lecture can be depicted as one in which the expert speaker imparts information via a monologue delivered to a passive audience (Goffman, 1991). However, this approach is criticised as representing an outdated paradigm (Johnson et al, 1998). A growing body of literature (eg, Hake, 1998; Northcott, 2001) highlights the ability of an interactive lecturing style, in which student participation is actively encouraged, to foster a deep approach to learning and higher levels of conceptual understanding. These findings have been supported by research in the field of cognitive psychology which finds a direct link between effective learning and active participation which engages multiple centres of the brain (Zull, 2002).

Educational research has developed to address a need to test strategies, approaches and tools which can aid a lecturer to introduce effective interaction between lecturer and student and among the students themselves. At a basic level this can be achieved by soliciting responses to issues posed by the material covered. Meltzer and Manivannan (1996) describe the positive effects of increased student engagement from a large lecture approach which employed a series of coloured flashcards to enable students to communicate responses to questions presented. Technological developments now mean that this approach can be replicated on a much more sophisticated level through the use of interactive systems. Judson and Sawada (2002) indicate that in a variety of guises classroom interactive systems have been in existence and use since the 1960s. …

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