Quick start

In-class polling offers an efficient means to monitor progress and problems in peer-learning groups and to intervene when either the class is very confused or has understood the concept thoroughly and is ready to move on. There are two recommended approaches:

Classwide discussion method

Begin with a question, proceed immediately to small-group discussion to answer it, followed by full-class discussion.

Peer-learning model

Students are required to think and answer independently first, see the answers, and then spend time in groups struggling to reach a consensus answer.

Some data indicate that the latter method works better in larger classes, because individual answers force stronger engagement, and the class discussion portion in classwide may introduce too much confusion, unless the question asked is very difficult. A combination of the two methods by an observant instructor may be best (Caldwell, 2007).

Here are some ideas of how to implement polling in your teaching: 

Polling as a learning tool

  • Vary the question type based on the purpose of the activity
  • Utilise word clouds as a visual tool to start a class discussion
  • Plan discussion time to respond to polling responses. You may need to adapt your lesson based on the results collected
  • Summarise classwide discussions and explain the correct answer afterward
  • Encourage students to discuss answers with each other

Polling as an assessment

  • Plan your grading system in advance. Make sure it aligns with your unit learning outcomes
  • Give students the chance to get familiar with the polling tool before using it as an assessment tool
  • Make scores accessible on a regular basis to reduce student anxiety
  • Check with colleagues if a library of poll questions exists. If not, consider building a shared library of poll questions
  • Be willing to throw out or regrade a question that contains an error or is unclear

General Tips

  • Be aware that your first use of in-class polling will require time to prepare good questions
  • Know why you are using in-class polling, and keep this in mind while writing questions
  • Choose a polling tool that has the required functionality and one that you are confident with
  • Set up the system before class and practise
  • Use the same polling tool throughout your teaching so that students become familiar with the technology
  • Explain to students why you are using the system and what you expect students to gain from the experience
  • Spend some time training students to use in-class polling
  • Keep a positive attitude, and be willing to make a few mistakes as you learn

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