Polls are a versatile and useful tool for engaging students in a wide array of classroom settings. As with any new technology or active learning strategy using polls can feel daunting to weave into your course plan. When deciding to use polling, you should consider how this technique will integrate with your teaching persona, teaching methods, and the learning objectives you have for your students. Effective polling usage hinges on appropriate facilitation. Think of polling questions as jumping off points for instructor-led clarification about a concept, student-led discussion about how to solve a problem or classify a concept, class-wide discussion of content, and group updates on in-class work. As you start the process of including polling questions in your teaching, be mindful of the time required for adequate facilitation to achieve your desired learning goals.
The information on this page is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather is meant to highlight a number of different possibilities for using polls in your classroom and spark your thinking. Consider your learning goals for including polls in your teaching and think about when, how, and why to use polls.
Ways to use polls in the beginning of class
- Ask a recall question about something covered in the last class period, a reading, or homework set to help students transition into the mindset of your course and the material.
- Ask a predictive question to jumpstart discussion of a topic or demonstration.
- Ask a question that will highlight a commonly held misconception that you will dispel over the course of the class period or semester.
- Ask students for their perspectives on a topic that you will be discussing to jumpstart the conversation.
Ways to use polls throughout class
- Ask groups to indicate how much longer they will need to complete a section of an assignment.
- Ask groups to work together on a problem and agree on one answer to respond with, then have groups explain their reasoning.
- Ask a question that connects material you have just presented to other topics covered throughout the course.
- Ask a question that will gauge if students understood what was just presented to ensure that they are ready to move on to the next stage of discussion.
- Ask a question that has multiple ‘correct’ answers and have students justify their reasoning.
- Ask a conceptual question that requires students to apply information to demonstrate an understanding of the material.
- Ask a predictive question to aid with discussion or a demonstration.
- Ask a question that will simulate an experimental result that you can use to illustrate a point.
Ways to use polls at the end of class
- Ask students to identify the ‘muddiest point’ of the lecture.
- Ask students to rate their confidence in their understanding of the material presented in class, or the connections between that material and previous discussions.
- Ask students to indicate where they are in the process of completing a long-term project.
- Ask an application question about the focus of the day’s lecture.
- Ask a question for students to consider before the next class that will serve to spark conversation or to help them continue to think about the material between class meetings.
If you would like to discuss ways to structure your class meetings with polls, or anything else related to polling, please contact Sally Wu.