Tips for In-Class Polling

Decorative: An image of three hands, each holding a different smart phone or tablet, with digital polling data on each


"When Open-Ended Live Polling Gets Rocky" (post) outlines potential sudent-based challenges of using open-ended questions with in-class polling tools such as PollEverywhere, Kahoot, Socrative, Mentimeter, etc., but it also outlines a number of practical solutions.

A. Some Challenges of Open-Ended Questions

  • "[O]ne or two students [may] anonymously pos[t] unhelpful responses (i.e. YouTube links, comments on NFL, etc.) as the class progresse[s] ... [which is] fairly distracting for other students."
  • If open-ended questions are left "showing on the screen as the students wor[k] on [a] case," there could be "a free-for-all" as students "go rogue" and try to "elicit the most laughter from the room" with their posts.
  • One easy answer: "[A]ssign an identified 'scribe' for each group and only allow them to post their group responses." 

B. Other Practical Strategies

1. "Incorporate Polling Early in a Class"

  • "[S]et some group norms around how you will use [in-class polling] and ... establish more familiarity with the method."
  • "[U]se polling the first or second class session, with the majority of the questions posed being in multiple-choice format, or as a clickable image."

2. "Present a Puzzle or an Opportunity to Predict"

  • “When presenting cases, problems, examples, or histories, stop before the conclusion and ask students to predict the outcome.”
  • "[H]eighte[n] learners’ curiosity ... If they are being asked to wrestle with something that truly has their attention, they are much less likely to want to share the highlights of last night’s NFL game."

3. "Go with It"

  • "Depending on the nature of what is being entered into the open-ended prompt, consider enjoying the opportunity for some levity in what can all too often be a stressful season."

4. "Limit the Amount of Time the Open-Ended Poll Stays on the Screen"

  • "[P]resent the question on a slide (not a live, polling slide) ... have students discuss their answer with someone near them ... bring up the live polling slide on the screen and ask students to respond to it on their devices."
  • "If [you] have done an effective job at creating a mystery, or asking them to solve an intriguing question, [you] very rarely have any answers that don’t relate to what [you] are discussing."

5. "Use a Tool that Has a Moderating Feature"

  • "Many polling and audience response systems ... have the option to moderate responses on their paid plans."
  • "[A]ssign that task to someone in the class" so you don't "slo[w] down the class considerably and los[e] people’s attention."

6. "Have Names Be Public"

  • "[R]equire that students’ names be included with their responses."
  • Note: This "can create unwanted pressure for the students to perform in cases where there is a right/wrong answer": "opportunities for review in class [should] be low stakes and having students’ identities not be known is one of the ways [to] accomplish this."
  • Still, "[t]here may be reasons why this approach makes sense in your case."

7. "Check Your Power"

  • "[R]eflect on why it bothers [you] so much when students do certain things."
  • "When presented with students who are typing in text that doesn’t align with our plans for the class session, it can mess with our desire to have things be in control."
  • "[R]eflecting on those elements of our frustration [that] are the result of losing control can be helpful in identifying remedies that will ultimately facilitate greater learning in the future."
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