Free polling tools are magical classroom-transforming wonders. We listed 10 ways to unleash their power.
If you are an infographic kind of person, you are particularly going to love this post because it begins with one!
To check your class’ understanding during lectures.
There are many ways to skin this cat (no cats were hurt in the making of this blog post).
- Host a poll (ungraded): A live histogram of the results updates as responses pour in
- Host a quiz: Students get to view their score, and you can add multiple questions to a single quiz.
There is also the more traditional technique of letting students write their responses on a sheet of paper but what is this, the Stone Age?
2. Peer Learning
Get students to collaborate and learn from each other
We’ll spare you the huge body of research that supports the idea that peer learning works better than learning alone. What’s great about polls is that they can help demonstrate these benefits to the class.
1. Conduct a quiz, 2. Split the class into groups for peer learning and discussion, and 3. Conduct a quiz again. The performance boost will be self-evident, and the shared goal of improvement will help everyone in the class.
3. Warm-up for discussions
Set the tone for a discussion with a question that attacks the crux of the matter.
The best way to stoke a raging discussion? Polarize the class. When it’s student vs. student, you can sit back and enjoy the show.
4. Feedback and Exit Tickets
Get feedback at the end of your lectures with anonymous polls.
This may sound like an avoidable heartache to inflict upon yourself but feedback polls can give you valuable information about the class’ understanding of the subject matter discussed and can help with course-correction (literally).
Exit tickets are also a great way for teachers to glean insights into what works with a group and what does not. As a bonus, the anticipation of an exit ticket will keep your students attentive!
5. Opinions on course policies
Giving your students a say in course policies helps build ownership.
With today’s generation of students, what gets crowd-sourced, gets done. Using polls, you can get students to co-create the course policy with you.
Do they want a larger class participation component or are they happy with tests?
Would they prefer randomly-assigned groups rather than go through the agony of finding group partners and the horse-trading that goes with it?
What do they think would be a reasonable deadline for the homework?
6. Interactive demo
Before a demo, ask students what they think will happen, based on what they learnt.
What do you think will happen when I pass this beam of light through this solution?
- The entire liquid will light up
- The beam of light will bend upwards
- The beam of light will bend downwards
- The beam of light will be reflected back
Professor HC Verma, one of India’s most renowned and respected Physics prfessors, is the king of in-class demos, and this is something he never forgets to do. Before simply showing a demo, he invariably asks the class to predict what the outcome is going to be.
Ask. Show. Tell. Keep students attentive. More attention = more retention.
7. Dispel misconceptions
Establish the prevalence of popular myths before you dispel them for dramatic effect.
Q. What is a tomato?
- A fruit
- A vegetable
- A stem
- A flower
Have your class answer a question like this through a poll and you will find that it is so much more effective than just saying “Did you know that tomato is a fruit?” People, in general, remember a fact much better when they find it dispels a long-held notion.
Of course, to know that a tomato is a fruit is knowledge. To not add it to a fruit salad, is wisdom.
8. Social experiments
Run a survey in class to demonstrate the link between opinions and population segments.
Let us take the example of the question as old as time (by which we mean the time when women drivers made their first appearance on the roads of the US)
“Men or women: Who are the better drivers?”
A 2010 TeleNav Driving Behavior survey suggested that both genders have similar views on abiding by and breaking the rules of the road, but males were more than 10 times as likely as females to believe that they were the better drivers.
Won’t it be interesting to pose question like these to your students, and make them aware of their biases, if any, in light of what the data says?
AKA introspection, or self-assessment, helps students reflect on, and better their learning.
Ask your students to respond to polls that make them think about questions like “What do I already know about this topic?”, “What confused me in class today?”, “How did this class change my thinking about this topic?” or “What part of my preparation worked or did not work for me in this test?”
“Thinking about your own thinking” — the experts call it meta-cognition. We have a sneaky feeling a certain Mr Nolan might call it Thinkception™!
10. Students pick method, you solve
Pose a problem and list possible methods to solve it. Students pick what they want to see a demo of.
Get students to decide how they’d like to see a problem solved. Of course, this is contingent upon the fact that there really are multiple ways to solve a problem. In advanced STEM subjects, there often are. This can help you identify what confuses students more, and direct your efforts accordingly.
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