Classroom Polling

Classroom Polling

Lesson outcomes: 

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  1. Appreciate the value of classroom polling for your own teaching practice
  2. Identify some examples of the uses of classroom polling
  3. Find some resources and tools that can be used for classroom polling


The ability to poll students in real time in a classroom setting is nothing new. A ‘show of hands’ enables a quick snapshot of students’ understanding, opinions, or ideas on a simple question posed to the group as a whole. Professors have long recognized the value in this kind of ‘group sharing’ for creating a learning community, for checking students’ understanding, or for gauging the reception of a new idea or concept.

However, a ‘show of hands’ has a downside. For one thing, questions of a more specific or complicated nature are excluded. For another thing, shyer students may be intimidated by the process, as it is far from anonymous. Finally, when used as a test of knowledge, ‘getting it wrong’ can be a genuine de-motivator for participation, due to the potential for embarrassment.

Clickers, which, have been around for several years, solved some of these problems with an electronic interface that could be made anonymous and would instantly compile answers into a table or graphic format. With clickers, students purchased or rented a piece of hardware that enabled them to respond to questions posed by the professor in real time. Clicker software also allowed the professor to view and compile responses in a gradebook. Clickers worked especially well in large classes, where a larger sample of responses was more likely to create more meaningful results, and participation was more difficult for general discussion. However, most of the early clickers were geared exclusively to multiple choice questions, and lacked flexibility in the software that accompanied the clickers. Professors had to learn the software, creating a steep learning curve that many busy professors resisted.

Today, the choices for audience response systems and classroom polling are far wider, and far more flexible, than in the past. Audience response systems have also expanded outside of the classroom and are now used in business, conference and keynote presentations, and company retreats. The value of audience response systems has been borne out in years of peer-reviewed research that demonstrate higher levels of student engagement, improved mastery of concepts, and better problem-solving skills [1] In addition, using classroom response systems can help to refine one’s teaching strategies to the needs and expectations of learners.  


  • Open-ended: Ask an open-ended question, see the results live as a graph, or create a word cloud
  • Debate: Pose a debate question, divide the class into two sides based on their responses 
    • Hold a debate with a small group, observers can offer up arguments to help ‘their side’
  • Visual: Pose a visual problem, equation, or diagram, students mark their answers on an image or map 
  • Prediction: Ask students to predict the answer to a problem, or predict how a character might respond to a given situation
  • Opinion polling: ask students whether they agree or disagree with a statement
  • Tournaments: students compete against each other in teams or individually
  • Games: students throw questions to other teams or individuals, earn points
  • Exams: Students suggest exam questions, then vote on their favourites, results are automatically ranked
  • Surveys: to determine small group composition
  • Discussion: in real-time, or asynchronously
  • Guests: students pose questions to a guest, questions can be ranked so the most popular go to the top
  • Exit ticket:  ask students to report the difficulty of the material they heard in lecture
  • Focus groups:  teams of students develop a summary of the lecture material, with a 140-character limit
  • Multiple choice:  students choose the best answer out of 4 or 5 correct ones, then defend their choice
  • Sharing: Students share links in real time, to gather a reading list quickly
  • Group Documents: Students work on an online document simultaneously, group or class note-taking
  • Peer review: of writing, students comment on peer’s writing, or examples
  • Matching: students pair questions with the correct answers or descriptions
  • Races: timed competitions between teams or individual students


PollEverywherelinks to external site

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Socrativelinks to external site

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TopHatlinks to external site

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A Collection of Classroom Response Tools can be accessed on LiveBinder here.links to external site

For more Educational Technology Tools [Evernote] visit the Library herelinks to external site.

[1] (Bojinova and Oigara; Mollborn and Hoekstra; Vaterlaus et al.; Stewart and Stewart; Gormley-Heenan and Mccartan)