Tools to Facilitate In-Class Polling

Tools to facilitate in-class polling

In-class polling by any means (clickers, online polling programs, Google forms, or even colored pieces of paper) is a straight-forward way for instructors to gather real-time feedback, identify gaps in preparation or understanding, and then flexibly adjust instruction. Read more about why you might use polling in the classroom.

Here are a few tools that can facilitate the incorporation of polling in your classroom:

Low- or No-tech

Raise Your Hand – Keep it simple! A straight-forward way to have students respond to multiple-choice questions is to have them raise their hands to vote. This method can even be done in a semi-private manner in a small- or medium-sized class by having all students vote by holding up a certain number of fingers (1 for A, 2 for B, etc) just under their chin. This allows everyone to vote at the same time and allows the instructor to scan the room for a general count on each answer option.

Choral Response – Another keep it simple! Ask students to shout out the correct answer in response to a multiple-choice question.  Be sure to give them a distinct signal (such as 1, 2, 3 GO!) so that you get a simultaneous choral response. If there is a consensus on an answer, you will be able to hear it very clearly in the sound of the “chorus” of answers. If there is not a consensus, you will also hear that there is no clear answer, though you will need to ask some additional questions to determine what their answers are.

Plickers – Looking for something a little more quantitative? This option requires technology on the instructor side (a smartphone app), but not on the student side. Plickers, a mash-up of paper and clickers, lets students vote by holding up a piece of paper with a black, coded shape on it. Each side of the shape corresponds to a different answer (A, B, C, or D) and each shape has a number that allows the instructor to identify the student (1-60). The instructor uses their smartphone app to scan the student plickers, and the app generates a bar graph of the submissions. Even better, plickers are completely free!


Socrative – One of the many ways to avoid technology distractions in the classroom is to encourage students to use their devices for on-task activities. Socrative is an online polling program that has students answer questions through their smartphone or laptop.

Clickers – An excellent way to use physical technology that prevents distracted use of smartphones or laptops is to use what is commonly known as a clicker. These physical devices have lettered buttons that allow students to answer multiple choice questions privately and generate data charts for the instructor. Learn about the clicker community at Washington University here.

Do you have questions about which option is right for you? Schedule a consultation to discuss these options and more.

You can also check out these Tips for Trying New Teaching Strategies and Advice for Integrating Clickers with Active Learning.