Best Practices

How to make the most effective use of polling in your class room:

  • We do not recommend using polling solely for attendance.  Use polls to learn more about students’ attitudes or evaluate comprehension instead!
  • Limit the number of polling questions per class session.  Using 4 – 8 questions per 50 – 75 minute lectures will allow students time to comprehend the information presented by you as well as time to understand each polling concept.
  • Vary your question style.  Using a variety of question types keeps students thinking about the material presented in the poll.  Use types such as: factual/recall, understanding/common misconceptions, opinion/rating/scales, “what if”/predictions, and others.  An excellent description of clicker questions can be found at:
  • Use polling for different purposes.  Some questions may be used to review older concepts, while others may be used to evaluate the level of knowledge your students possess before introducing a topic. And one of the most effective uses of in-class polls is for peer instruction.  More examples of these activities can be found at:
  • Factual Questions: Display your question and remark on its purpose.  Allow students time to think about the question and to submit their responses individually – usually no more than 60 seconds, sometimes 30 seconds depending on the complexity of the question and answers.  These questions are often simple quizzes on material just covered in lecture, or are derived from the textbook or the text book’s instructor’s guide.
  • Quizzing: You can display a question with answer choices that either draws upon the material covered in lecture or perhaps on the assigned reading in preparation for a lecture.  After the students submit their responses, you can choose to not show the results (which is an in-class quiz) or display the results, identifying the correct answers and discuss the correct and incorrect choices.
  • An excellent activity when using in-class polling is the Think-Pair-Share model.  Here’s how to use this method:
    First, present your polling question in class and ask your students to submit their responses without talking to anyone [Think].  Stop the poll and do not display the results graph to the class: do not let them see the class responses.  Now, ask them to turn to the person next to them and discuss the question in a small group – 2-4 students – and come to a consensus within the small group [Pair].  Start a new poll, asking the same question, still not displaying the results graph.  Instruct your students to now submit their responses based on their group’s decision.  Now display the responses and also show the results of the initial poll taken without any discussion [Share].  You should see a larger number of students responding with the correct answer after discussing it among themselves.  This activity works very well with a question that addresses common misconceptions about a certain concept.
  • Opinion questions: You may choose to start a whole-class discussion based around an opinion about a certain topic or controversial issue.  Examples of these would be “I believe in the following: [insert your issue here]” or “What if you encountered the following situation: …”  You will display the question with the answer choices. The students will then submit their responses individually.  You will now display the responses and engage the students in a discussion, emphasizing why certain responses are chosen and why others are not chosen.  You should be sure that any residual issues or student questions from the discussion are explicitly addressed before moving on, within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Address and dispel common misconceptions.  You can ask a question with answer choices that students with a particular common misconception are likely to select, along with the correct answer.  When you display the responses, you can discuss why the incorrect choice was chosen and therefore dispel the misconception.  A visual explanation of the incorrect answer, combined with your explanation of why it is not correct, will reinforce the correct answer to this concept for the students.
  • Ask students to determine the next step in a complex calculation.  You can pose a question that the students need to perform a series of calculations to answer.  At any step along the way, you can show one step and ask the students to determine the next step or to determine the solution.
  • Students can work in small groups to answer a question posed to the entire class.  You can pose a question with answer choices that might be based on the reading or assignments required for that lecture, using the textbook or any online materials that you provide for them.  The students group themselves into 3-4 students each and are asked to discuss the reasoning for their answer choice.  You and the students can together analyze the choices and why some are chosen and others are not.
  • Predict the results.  You can present a demonstration, experiment, simulation of a conversation, or other types scenarios that apply to your concept being taught.  This can be an image, diagram, audio, or video that is shown in class.  You will then ask a question for the student to predict the outcome, with choices that lead to discussion about why one is the more-likely outcome and why others may not be more likely to occur.
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