Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 544–552 | Cite as

Gender Differences in the Use and Effectiveness of Personal Response Devices

  • Daniel B. KingEmail author
  • Shivani Joshi


The use of personal response devices (or “clickers”) in the classroom has increased in recent years. While few quantitative studies on the effectiveness of clickers have been published, it is generally reported that clickers have been well-received by the students who use them. Two separate populations (Winter 2006 and Spring 2006) of engineering students were given clickers to use during a general chemistry class. Clicker use was compared to student grades for each course. During both terms, a higher percentage of female students than male students “actively participated” in the lectures, where active participation was defined as answering more than 75% of the clicker questions over the course of the term. Active male students earned final grades about 10 points higher than non-active male students. Active female students, however, scored only about 5 points higher than non-active female students. Student learning was assessed by comparing performance on exam questions and clicker questions with similar content. Students who answered clicker questions correctly were 11–13% more likely to answer the corresponding exam questions correctly than were students who did not answer the clicker question. In this paper, we demonstrate the effectiveness of clicker use in the classroom and examine gender differences associated with this use.


Personal response device Gender General chemistry 



Funding from the Maryanoff Summer Research Program at Drexel University paid for the participation of S. Joshi. The authors would like to acknowledge two anonymous reviewers, whose comments significantly improved this manuscript.


  1. Adelman C (1998) Women and men of the engineering path: a model for analyses of undergraduate careers. United States Government Printing Office, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  2. Becker JR (1981) Differential treatment of females and males in mathematics classes. J Res Math Educ 12:40–53. doi: 10.2307/748657 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker B, Chang L (1986) Measurement of science achievement and its role in gender differences. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CAGoogle Scholar
  4. Bunce DM, VandenPlas JR, Havanki KL (2006) Comparing the effectiveness on student achievement of a student response system versus online WebCT quizzes. J Chem Educ 83:488–493Google Scholar
  5. Burnstein R, Lederman L (2001) Using wireless keypads in lecture classes. Phys Teach 39:3–11. doi: 10.1119/1.1343420 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carroll RG (1998) Current and future impact of technology on physiology education. Adv Physiol Educ 275:8–11Google Scholar
  7. Chen M (1986) Gender and computers: the beneficial effects of experience on attitudes. J Educ Comput Res 2:265–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen JC, Owusu-Ofori S, Pai D, Toca-McDowell E, Wang S-L, Waters CK (1996) A study of female academic performance in mechanical engineering. Frontiers in education conference FIE ’96, 26th Annual Conference, Proceedings, vol 2, pp 779–782Google Scholar
  9. Coley RJ (2001) Differences in the gender gap: comparisons across racial/ethnic groups in education and work. Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  10. Crouch C, Mazur E (2001) Peer instruction: ten years of experience and results. Am J Phys 69:970–977. doi: 10.1119/1.1374249 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crowley K, Callanan MA, Tenenbaum HR, Allen E (2001) Parents explain more often to boys than to girls during shared scientific thinking. Psych Sci 12:258–261. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00347 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis JL, Davis H (2007) Perceptions of career and technology and training and development students regarding basic personal computer knowledge and skills. Coll Stud J 41:69–79Google Scholar
  13. Draper S, Brown M (2004) Increasing interactivity in lectures using an electronic voting system. J Comput Assist Learn 20:81–94. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2004.00074.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Draper S, Cargill J, Cutts Q (2002) Electronically enhanced classroom interaction. Aust J Educ Technol 18:13–23Google Scholar
  15. Ebert-May D, Brewer C, Allred S (1997) Innovation in large lectures—teaching for active learning. Bioscience 47:601–607. doi: 10.2307/1313166 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elliott C (2003) Using a personal response system in economics teaching. Int Rev Econ Educ 1:80–86Google Scholar
  17. Enoch Y, Soker Z (2006) Age, gender, ethnicity and the digital divide: university students’ use of web-based instruction. Open Learn 21:99–110. doi: 10.1080/02680510600713045 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Freeman M, Blayney P (2005) Promoting interactive in-class learning environments: a comparison of an electronic response system with a traditional alternative. In: Cheung SL (ed) Innovation for student engagement in economics. Proceedings of the eleventh Australasian teaching economics conference. Sydney, Australia, pp 23–34Google Scholar
  19. Freeman M, Blayney P, Ginns P (2006) Anonymity and in class learning: the case for electronic response systems. Aust J Educ Technol 22:568–580Google Scholar
  20. Geary DC, DeSoto MC (2001) Sex differences in spatial abilities among adults from the United States and China. Evol Cogn 7:172–177Google Scholar
  21. Grandy J (1994) Gender and ethnic differences among science and engineering majors: experiences, achievements, and expectations. Educational Testing Services, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  22. Halpern DF, Benbow CP, Geary DC, Gur RC, Shibley Hyde J, Gernsbacher MA (2007) The science of sex differences in science and mathematics. Psychol Sci Publ Interest 8:1–51. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-1006.2007.00032.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hake RR (1998) Interactive engagement vs. traditional methods: a six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. Am J Phys 66:64–74. doi: 10.1119/1.18809 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Holland DC, Eisenhart MA (1990) Educated in romance: women, achievement, and college culture. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  25. Johns M, Schmander T, Martens A (2005) Teaching stereotype threat as a means of improving women's math performance. Psychol Sci 16: 175–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kahl SR, Fleming ML, Malone MR (1982) Sex-related differences in pre-college science: findings of the science meta-analysis project. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  27. Koohang A (2004) Students’ perceptions toward the use of the digital library in weekly web-based distance learning assignments portion of a hybrid program. Br J Educ Technol 35:617–626. doi: 10.1111/j.0007-1013.2004.00418.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Knight JK, Wood WB (2005) Teaching more by lecturing less. Cell Biol Educ 4:298–310. doi: 10.1187/05-06-0082 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lei J, Zhao Y (2007) Technology uses and student achievement: a longitudinal study. Comp Educ 49:284–296. doi: 10.16/j.compedu.2005.06.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lorenzo M, Crouch CH, Mazur E (2006) Reducing the gender gap in the physics classroom. Am J Phys 74:118–122. doi: 10.1119/1.2162549 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Martens RL, Valcke MMA, Portier SJ (1997) Interactive learning environments to support independent learning: the impact of discernability of embedded support devices. Comp Educ 28:185–197. doi: 10.1016/S0360-1315(97)84657-X CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McCabe M, Heal A, White A (2001) Integration of group response systems into teaching. In: Danson M, Eabry C (eds) Fifth International CAA Conference Proceedings, Loughborough UniversityGoogle Scholar
  33. McIlwee JS, Robinson JG (1992) Women in engineering: gender, power and work culture. State University of New York Press, Albany, NYGoogle Scholar
  34. Moffat SD, Hampson E, Hatzipantelis M (1998) Navigation in a “virtual” maze: sex differences and correlation with psychometric measures of spatial ability in humans. Evol Hum Behav 19:73–87. doi: 10.1016/S1090-5138(97)00104-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. National Academy of Sciences (2007) Beyond bias and barriers: fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering. The National Academies Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  36. Quinn DM, Spencer SJ (2001) The interference of stereotype threat with women's generation of mathematical problem-solving strategies. J Soc Issues 57:55–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Roeser RW, Eccles JS, Sameroff AJ (2000) School as a context of early adolescents’ academic and social-emotional development: a summary of research findings. Elem Sched J 100:443–471. doi: 10.1086/499650 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shashaani L (1994) Gender differences in computer experience and its influence on computer attitudes. J Educ Comput Res 11:347–367Google Scholar
  39. Shepardson DP, Pizzini EL (1994) Gender, achievement, and perception toward science activities. Sched Sci Math 94:188–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Simpson V, Oliver M (2002) Using electronic voting systems in lectures. UCL internal report. ( Accessed 9 August 2008
  41. Simpson V, Oliver M (2007) Electronic voting systems for lectures then and now: a comparison of research and practice. Aust J Educ Technol 23:187–208Google Scholar
  42. Stake JE, Nickens SD (2005) Adolescent girls’ and boys’ science peer relationships and perceptions of the possible self as scientist. Sex Roles 52:1–12. doi: 10.1007/s11199-005-1189-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Steele J (2003) Children’s gender stereotypes about math: the role of stereotype stratification. J Appl Soc Psychol 33:2587–2606. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2003.tb02782.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tanner K, Allen D (2005) Approaches to biology teaching and learning: understanding the wrong answers-teaching toward conceptual change. Cell Biol Educ 4:112–117. doi: 10.1187/cbe.05-02-0068 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tenenbaum HR, Snow CE, Roach KA, Kurland B (2005) Talking and reading science: longitudinal data on sex differences in mother–child conversations in low-income families. Appl Dev Psychol 26:1–19. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2004.10.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Thacker BA (2003) Recent advances in classroom physics. Rep Prog Phys 66:1833–1864. doi: 10.1088/0034-4885/66/10/R07 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Thomas M, Hughes SG, Hart PM, Schollar J, Keirie K, Griffith GW (2001) Group project work in biotechnology and its impact on key skills. J Biol Educ 35:133–140Google Scholar
  48. Turner RC, Lindsay HA (2003) Gender differences in cognitive and noncognitive factors related to achievement in organic chemistry. J Chem Educ 80:563–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wit E (2003) Who wants to be… the use of a personal response system in statistics teaching. MSOR Connect 3:14–20Google Scholar
  50. Zerega ME (1986) Late adolescent sex differences in science learning. Sci Educ 40:447–460Google Scholar
  51. Zhang Y (2005) Distance learning receptivity: are they ready yet? Q Rev Dist Educ 6:45–55Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Bioscience and BiotechnologyDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations