Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Instructional strategies and tips with using polling technologies in teaching

Created by: Ryan Los, Graduate Associate and Katie Barnett, Tech Fellow for the Center for Teaching and Learning

In small classrooms and high schools it is acceptable to have students raise their hand when asked a question. But in large college lectures this can be a hassle due to the greater number of students in the classroom. Thanks to new technology, there are now many avenues that can be utilized to allow students to voice their opinions quickly and easily. Polling technology assists in getting students talking, thinking, and participating in the classroom in a matter of seconds. In addition, it gives professors instant feedback to see if their students are following along and understanding the content of the lecture. Some examples of polling systems include TurningPoint, PollDaddy, SurveyTool, and Poll Everywhere.

 While you may want to look through the polling systems listed above, USD supports the TurningPoint software. TuringPoint offers instant management of polling participants, content, sessions and reports. The basic features and advantages of TurningPoint include: polling from any environment and application; the ability to manage polling, participants, content, sessions, and reports. TurningPoint also supports pictures, characters, and question lists.

It is important that you ensure the students understand how they will be evaluated via using clickers. This should be explained during the first class and certainly laid out in the syllabus for the course. For example, you may use clickers at the beginning of every class and ask the students 5 questions based on the prior class and/or assigned readings that will be worth 20% of the course grade for both attendance and keeping up with course content. Upon completion of the course, all of the responses can be tabulated and if there are 20 classes, each classes’ clicker question will be worth .2% of the final overall grade to equal 1% per day x 20 classes = 20 % of the final course grade.

Tips for utilizing polling in the classroom:
1.      Plan in advance for how to deal with students whose clickers are forgotten, need batteries, or are broken.
2.      Attendance, if you want to increase attendance, use clickers daily and link clicker usage to the D2L grade book. This will encourage students to show up to class, listen to the lecture, and participate in the questions being asked during class.
3.      Communication with the students - explain to students why you are using the system and what you want them to gain from the experience. Also let students learn from their right and wrong answers by displaying the correct answer and discussing it. It is also wise to use a combination of simple and more complex questions, as this will challenge students and help generate discussion.
4.      Prevent wasted time and frustration - spend some time in class showing students how to use the technology and offer them a tutorial that explains the process.

The DON’Ts of using clickers in the classroom:
1.      Fail to explain why you are using clickers.
2.      Use them primarily for attendance.
3.      Don’t have students talk with each other.
4.      Use only factual recall questions.
5.      Don’t make use of the student response information.
6.      Fail to discuss what learning means or the depth of participation and learning you expect in your class.
7.      Think of clickers as a testing device, rather than a device to inform learning.

Polling technology is a great way to get students involved in the classroom. It not only promotes discussion and challenges students with questions, but allows the students to see what areas they need to work on, and offers the professor instant feedback on their students’ progress. By following the strategies and tips listed above, it is quite simple to improve student involvement in classroom discussions and to create an enhanced learning environment.

Note: Polling can be used at USD through clickers and the TurningPoint software. For more information on setting up polling in your classroom or if you have any questions, please contact the CTL at 5411.

Caldwell, J. E. (2007). Clickers in the Large Classroom: Current Research and Best-Practice Tips. CBE - Life Sciences Education, 6(1), 9-20. 

Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. (2013). Clicker Resources. Retrieved from
Dunn, J. (2012, April 2). The Teacher’s Guide To Polling In The Classroom. Retrieved from

TurningPoint. (n.d.). Key Features. Retrieved from

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