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Checking student understanding is essential for effective teaching. Do your students have preconceived notions of a topic? Are they following your lecture? Do they understand the connection between this topic and your course goals? There are many ways to evaluate student understanding (through assignments, projects, or exams), but I encourage you to check student understanding during the learning process.

A great, quick way to check comprehension is to poll your students. Below I have compiled a list of tried and true polling techniques.



1. Show of Hands

You don’t need fancy technology to get instant feedback in class. A simple “Raise your hand if you have heard of this concept before” or “Raise your hand if you agree with this statement” can go a long way.


Advantage(s): no preparation, no cost

Disadvantage(s): not anonymous, binary response (yes/no, true/false)


2. Student Response Cards

This is such an easy, brilliant system for multiple responses. At the beginning of the semester, hand out colored post-it notes or labeled index cards to each student. During class, pose a multiple choice question and assign each answer a color. Students then simultaneously raise their response cards and you immediately have a pulse of the class.


Advantage(s): minimal preparation, multiple-choice

Disadvantage(s): not anonymous


3. Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is a web-based response system. You create questions online (multiple choice, open response, live word clouds, clickable images, up- and down-voting for Q&A, and rank order) and students respond by visiting a website or texting a number on their phones.


Advantage(s): multiple question/response types, can be anonymous, results updated live, can integrate into PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides

Disadvantage(s): students need phone access, free version capacity is 25 responses (contact Kevin Abbott if you would like to implement Poll Everywhere in a larger class)


4. Kahoot

Looking to liven up the classroom? Kahoot is a game-based learning platform that turns concept quizzes into a competition. With music, points, and rankings, Kahoot is ideal for social learning or review questions.


Advantage(s): game-like features haven proven popular among students

Disadvantage(s): with emphasis placed on answering quickly and winning, kahoot is not ideal for higher-level thinking or collaboration


5. Plickers

Originally created for K-12 teachers, Plickers is unique because it combines student response cards with technology. At the beginning of the semester, each student is given a unique Plickers card (with a machine-scannable image that looks like a QR code). Each side of the square card corresponds to a letter A, B, C, or D. When prompted, students hold up and rotate the card to put their chosen answer on top. The instructor then uses the Plickers app on a mobile device to scan the room and compile the responses.


Advantage(s): great for polling in classrooms where students don’t have personal devices, inclusive, free

Disadvantage(s): lost or mixed up cards, limited to multiple choice responses



Done well, polling students during class can increase student engagement and comprehension. If you would like more information about polling (effectiveness, examples of questions and teaching activities, how to get started, etc.), see the additional resources below.



Additional Resources:

  1. Other Student Response Systems
  2. Getting Started with Poll Everywhere
  3. Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments
  4. Multiple-Choice Questions You Wouldn’t Put on a Test: Promoting Deep Learning Using Clickers









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