Keep it active with classroom polling

After about 15 minutes listening in a large lecture hall, many students’ minds are likely wandering.  An easy way to make your class more active and allow your students to see if they are understanding is to use polling software.  A poll can be an open text response, multiple choice, and even a visual you interact with.  The USask tool is called Poll Everywhere. You can see all the details for how to set up and use Poll Everywhere, including in Canvas, in the Poll Everywhere teaching guide in the Learning Technology Ecosystem.

To keep students engaged when you are doing a lot of the talking, space questions and activities throughout a class session (e.g., every 10 minutes). A few of these activities can check comprehension of what was just explored in class but it is good to do additional activities that serve different purposes. For example, an instructor could run:

  • An activity before exploring the new topic and that checks students’ prior knowledge. By checking prior knowledge, the instructor gains insight into what the students already know and the students’ brains are primed to make connections between what they already know and the new knowledge.
  • Another activity that simply asks students if they want to see another example. This is immediate feedback to the instructor that helps them tailor the class to the students.
  • A closing activity at the end of class that asks students to reflect on the class by identifying any remaining areas of confusion. This reflection helps students consolidate their learning from the day and the instructor can use these responses to tailor the start of the next class session.

Ideally, activities allow students to see if they are understanding your most important points well. In addition, remember to keep the process low stakes (no grades) and correct any misconceptions your students have as they are uncovered.

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