Polling tips

Instructors can use classroom polling tools to facilitate in-class and online polling, and instantly receive responses from all students. Cornell supports these polling technologies: Poll Everywhere, iClicker, and the polling feature built into Zoom (view a comparison of these products).

You can use classroom polling to:

  • bring active learning to a lecture to help students become less passive, more active learners
  • help students engage with content and assess their knowledge
  • discover student misconceptions or assumptions
  • encourage problem-solving
  • solicit feedback and perspectives
  • draw student predictions
  • practice analysis
  • generate ideas
  • determine whether students need more time on a topic or are ready to move on to the next concept
  • spark class discussions with your students
  • check in with students
  • gauge student feelings and opinions

Suggestions for a successful polling experience

  • Ask a variety of question types so as to maintain student interest (question types might allow students to choose an answer from a list, type in a response, or click on an image)
  • Using a quick icebreaker or two early in the term can help students become comfortable with each other (with remote teaching, a good icebreaker is asking students to click on a global map to show where they are today, or where they are originally from if they are currently in Ithaca)
  • At the end of a poll question, give a complete explanation for correct and in-correct answers (even if a majority of students answered correctly, some students may still be unsure why their answer was incorrect)
  • Limit the number of poll questions you include in each lecture, as students may struggle to provide meaningful or accurate responses (3 – 6 questions is a good number during a 50 to 75-minute lecture)

Classroom polling examples from across Cornell

In January 2022, three Cornell instructors described and demonstrated how they manage common polling decisions in their courses at What works: Classroom polling ideas to engage students. Some of the questions they addressed are:

  • rephrasing polling questions for better responses
  • graded vs. ungraded polls (as well as credit for correct answers or participation)
  • involving TAs in polling
  • explaining reasons each answer is correct or incorrect 
  • pre-lecture quizzes

Watch the Q&A on the above discussion topics from the workshop.

The following video clips from the workshop demonstrate examples of ways Instructors are using polling in their classes:

  • Natasha Holmes, Ann S. Bowers assistant professor of Physics (College of Arts and Sciences), presents polling examples for higher-level thinking skills and deeper learning
  • Hadas Ritz, senior lecturer in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (College of Engineering), discusses using polling for discovering student misconceptions, deep reflection, and checking in on students
  • Todd Clary, lecturer in Classics (College of Arts and Sciences), explores creative assessment techniques and managing polling during class

Technical considerations for using Poll Everywhere

  • Before class, install the Poll Everywhere app on the computer you will use to present your slides (the app will allow you to place polls into your slides in PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides)
    Note: This will require administrator access to your computer and may require an IT support person to install it for you if you have a managed computer

Accessibility considerations

To help include all students in your classroom polling exercises,

  • keep questions concise
  • state the number of answer choices available for multiple choice and multiple answer questions