Beedie teachers using Poll Everywhere to provoke critical thinking

Jun 05, 2012

The Teaching and Learning Group’s Interactive Polling Session took place on May 24 at 2:30pm. Andrew Gemino opened the presentation with questions about engagement and how students learn at our university. The 16 attendees were split into smaller groups to discuss more deeply the questions about how our students learn and the types of skills our School should develop. It’s clear from their discussion, that our teachers feel there is no singular technique to use to engage students but that it is important to engage students in meaningful ways.

Maureen Fizzell and Andrew Gemino piloted Poll Everywhere in their BUS 201 courses this past year. As first year students, those in 201 were eager to do well and join in the use of the technology, with 99% participation in each class, according to Gemino. Maureen said that changing up and doing something different really brought students back and got them re-engaged with the lecture. Andrew noted that the students were more energetic and interactive when they used the software. Nima Sarhangpour, the teaching assistant for BUS 201, was a critical component in assisting Maureen and Andrew to set up Poll Everywhere. He provided the technical support and assisted them with data collection at the end of each semester.

So how does Poll Everywhere work? Nima demonstrated to the group both the features and limitations of this software. Poll Everywhere is an example of a Bring-Your-Own-Device classroom response system. Poll questions are created in advance and embedded into a PowerPoint presentation. The questions must be made active by clicking on a link and then also closing them at the end the poll to prevent further answers being input later. Responses are real time and data is compiled as it is received. Using moderator controls, the instructor can limit how and when poll responses can be shown (to reduce groupthink).

Poll Everywhere is more than just a software response tool, it can be a flexible teaching tool. David Rubeli, Beedie’s educational consultant at the TLC, pointed out that instructors can use it to determine if students are grasping key concepts, to discover students’ opinions, and to provoke critical thinking. A particularly effective teaching strategy to use with Poll Everywhere is to pose a thought-provoking, interesting question, and have small-group discussions among students to explore the answers together.

Poll Everywhere can provoke both dialogue and discussion but also comes with its own set of challenges. By sharing their experiences, the group noted some key insights when using this new software. Shauna Jones said it is a way to “go where the students are”, and engage them with the technology they are already using. Michael Johnson, who has used interactive polling for several years, said it can be a natural and functional part of teaching, without being an overwhelming or dramatic shift. Stephen Spector pointed out however that it does require “a great deal of pre-planning by the presenter” as questions must be embedded into PowerPoint and require forethought to introduce into the coursework. Maureen Fizzell talked about larger issues of teamwork vs. individuality in our School and how this type of interaction can facilitate integrated thinking and cooperation rather than competition.

Poll Everywhere provides another facet of interaction teachers can use to reach their students. If you are interested in utilizing this new software, please contact Andrew Gemino at

To learn more about how to teach with Poll Everywhere and other engagement techniques,
• Read Derek Bruff’s book Teaching with Classroom Response Systems or visit his blog, Agile Learning
• Explore Elizabeth Barkley’s Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty
• Read the Higher Education Academy’s review of evidence and research on student engagement

Tags: , , , , ,