Teaching Resources

Best Practices for Using Polling

Resource Overview

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Julia Johnson

Assistant Director, Educational Development

(314) 935-7199


This page is designed to help instructors think through pedagogical, technological, and communication considerations related to using clickers or polling systems in their classrooms.

Pedagogical Considerations

  • Consider the learning goals you plan to achieve by using polling systems. These are great active learning tools and can be used to accomplish learning goals in all disciplines. Before you begin using polling system in your classroom be sure to, identify your primary goal(s).
  • Consider what kinds of questions, activities, and facilitation style will best help you achieve your desired student learning goals. Polling can be used for many classroom purposes including: gauging student understanding in real time, facilitating discussions, and encouraging students to reflect on material. You can learn more about question types, activities, and facilitation techniques on our resources pages.
  • Consider how you will assess student learning with polling in your classroom. It is important that you consider your purpose for utilizing polling as a tool for student learning, the purpose of the questions you will be asking, and the amount of time that you will give students to respond to questions, when deciding if you will grade responses. You can assess student learning gains by considering the distribution of responses in the moment and using student answers to foster class discussion or clarify a misconception. Or, you can assess learning after the lecture has ended and use responses to shape future lectures. Polling can also be a convenient way to gather attendance data while engaging your students with the material through simply monitoring the number of questions a student answers without concern for accuracy. Alternatively, polling can be used to provide students with a grade based on the accuracy of their responses. This is useful if you want to provide students with an indication of how much they know in this moment.

Student Communication

  • Before classes start add a section to the syllabus that describes why you plan to incorporate polling and any technological needs students must have to engage with your polls.
  • On the first day of class share with students why you have decided to use polling in your class and explain to them how polling can support the well-researched benefit of active engagement on student learning. Take a few minutes to show students how to use the polling software, this is easily achieved by asking a few introductory questions (“Where are you from?”, “What year are you?”). Also communicate with students about how you plan on using polls as a grading or attendance tool.
  • In the first week of class if you plan to use polls as a grading mechanism, we suggest that you upload the data early and with frequency in order to provide transparency and ensure that student data is appearing properly. This will reduce any possible student concerns.
  • Throughout the semester use polls often to help you and your students become comfortable and confident in utilizing the technology. This will also reinforce to students that polls are an important component in your course and in their engagement with the material. As with any active learning technique, starting this process early is critical in order to indicate to students that you value their engagement with the activity.

If you have any questions or would like to set up a consultation to discuss your plans to utilize polling in your classroom please contact Julia Johnson, Assistant Director of Educational Development.

This page was developed in conjunction with Dr. Shaina Rowell.

Have suggestions?

If you have suggestions of resources we might add to these pages, please contact us:

teachcen@wustl.edu(314) 935-6810Mon - Fri, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.