Five Pedagogical Best Practices for Polling Question Construction

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Macmillan Employee
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1. Keep Polling Low-Stakes, High-Interest

pedagogy1.pngPolling should give a jolt of energy to your classes. Keeping polling a low-stakes part of students’ grades keeps polling a fun, game-like part of your class while reducing the incentive to cheat.

When students find your polling questions compelling, they are more likely to attend class regularly and they are more likely to use iClicker as a study tool outside of class.*


*Jeff Bergin and Lisa Ferrara, (2019, April 1).How Student Attendance Can Improve Institutional Outcomes. EDUCAUSE Review,. Retrieved from


2. Challenging Questions Should Follow Challenging Concepts

pedagogy2.pngFollowing tough concepts with easy polling questions seems like a harmless way to encourage students, but research shows the opposite to be true.* When an easy polling question follows a challenging concept, students assume they have mastered the concept when they get an easy question right.

Besides, how do you like playing a game that’s too easy? Challenging questions keep students engaged and increase the “game” quality of your class, making for stickier, more impactful learning.

*Amy M. Shapiro, Judith Sims-Knight, Grant V. O'Rielly, Paul Capaldo, Teal Pedlow, Leamarie Gordon, Kristina Monteiro, (2017). Clickers can promote fact retention but impede conceptual understanding: The effect of the interaction between clicker use and pedagogy on learning. Computers & Education, 111, 44–59. Retrieved from


3. Include Tempting Wrong Answers

pedagogy3.pngWhat kind of misconceptions trip your students up again and again? Include common errors in your multiple choice response options so you can address those misconceptions head on.*

When students pick the incorrect question en masse, you will have a highly engaged audience when you challenge directly what they thought they knew.

*The Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis. Asking Questions to Improve Learning. Retrieved from


4. Incorporate Open-Ended Questions

pedagogy4.pngMultiple choice questions are the most popular type of polling question, but open-ended questions can have a place in your lesson plan as well.

Consider having a short answer poll open during lecture, videos, student presentations, or any class time where students need to let you know their questions or concerns in a discreet way.*

*Dan Levy, Josh Yardley, and Richard Zeckhauser. Working Paper. Getting an Honest Answer: Clickers in the Classroom HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series, RWP15-071. Retrieved from


5. Anticipate Polling Surprises

pedagogy5.pngYour iClicker polling sessions have the power to revolutionize your learning sessions. Low-stakes feedback is as much for you the instructor as it is for your students.*

Remember that iClicker Cloud allows you to ask questions on the fly, ask questions more than once, and compare polling results windows. You can ask one polling question multiple times in the same class, revealing to you how students’ understanding grows and changes.

*Schwartz, K. (2014, January 6). The Importance of Low-Stakes Student Feedback. Retrieved from