Academic Online Poll/Survey Guidelines to Improve Student Learning

Many teachers have begun to use online polling or survey tools in their classroom. The clicker movement has become transformed into a multitude of e-polling tools such as those described in Web 2.0 Survey and Polling Tools.

Some general guidelines for a learning poll in a classroom:

1) Decide on the purpose of the poll. Is it a pre-assessment, in-progress assessment, or a final assessment?

2) Focus the poll on a single specific learning concept. Do not do a poll on all Spanish foods but on the subcategory of breakfast foods. Avoid sampling polls that cover many different learning concepts.

3) Ask critical essential material. Go for the truly important learning , instead of the trivial learning. It is more important to know what type poetry a poet wrote rather than how many husbands she had.

4) Ask higher level questions Which of the following sentences uses an analogy? or

5) Keep the wording simple. Avoid negative questions. Avoid long questions or statements. Avoid long multi-line possible answers. Although open-ended questions often allow the students more flexible in how they answer the question, these open-ended answers are hard to analyze for overall class performance.

6) Keep the poll to 10 or fewer questions. Make it a quick poll to take.

7) Decide whether to give the poll as homework or in-class. If done in-class, is it a review of yesterday (or the past few days)? Is a poll given after in-class instruction and some practice? Decide when it fits in the lesson to give you the best picture of students’ learning?

8) Decide if the poll is anonymous or whether the students identify themselves. If students identify themselves, then you can keep track of their progress. If students identify themselves, make sure your poll program can store the data. Some poll programs have polls that disappear after a certain amount of time. Does the program allow you to manipulate the data such as sorting or ranking?

9) Decide if you will share the class results with the class or whether you will be the only one to look at the data. If you share the results with the class, does the poll program produce an overall graph with no names or identification of individual students? For example, the poll may show a graph of how many A, B, C, and D answers there were for an individual question and highlight the correct answer.

10) If you are using the poll for class improvement, do you provide new strategies for students to overcome the learning gaps shown in the poll? If you explain the “wrong” answer in the same way that you have previously explained it, then students who are presently confused will still be confused. Do you have a new different strategy for students to learn the material? How soon after giving the poll will you give the new strategy? (Research says the sooner, the more effective.) Do you have students practice the new approach?

11) If at least 20% of the students do poorly (below 80%) on the poll, do y0u re-poll students within a few days to see if they have overcome their learning gaps? Can they show that they are proficient?

12) Decide if your next online poll will be this subcategory of the learning goal at a higher learning level, another subcategory of this learning goal, or a new learning goal. Hopefully, students will see the polls as a logical progression of their learning.

How do you use polls in your class?

cross-posted at

Harry Grover Tuttle teaches English and Spanish college courses at Onondaga Community College and blogs at Education with Technology. He is also the author of
several books on formative assessment.