“Poll the Audience” as used in the Nursing Classroom

Do you ever stare at a room full of students and wonder if there is comprehension behind the sea of faces?  I have found that the use of audience response devices helps!

I teach pathophysiology to the nursing majors. I enjoy teaching this class because it helps to answer the “WHY” question.   Some of the students find the content easy to master but for others it is challenging.  I ask them to not only understand disease but also to apply that knowledge to patient scenarios.  As we have been encouraged to admit larger classes it has become more difficult to do creative class activities which help comprehension.  I have gone from participatory activities to demonstrations and most recently to the use of audience response devices (clickers).  Each student is required to purchase a clicker.  $35.00 is billed to their student account.  They obtain clickers as sophomores so all nursing faculty can use them in class for the next two years.  The questions are inserted very easily into a PowerPoint presentation.  When a question comes up on the screen I give them a few seconds to answer the question.  When I advance to the next slide the graph pops up showing the answers selected by the class.


Using clickers in the classroom is wonderful for several reasons:

  1. You can pose a question to the class to assess understanding of a concept that you have just presented.  When half the class gets it wrong you know that it is a good time to back up and present the information in a slightly different way.
  2. It helps prepare students for tests.  They can get an idea of the type of thinking that may be required on a test.  I post my powerpoints with the questions on eCompanion so the students have access to the questions again. There is a way to show the correct answer in green and the incorrect answers in red so even as a posting the students can tell the correct answer. (I do not put them on document sharing which would give students the ability to download the whole file)
  3. Doing something active helps to keep the students involved and awake!
  4. I believe that they feel a sense of accomplishment when they get the question correct.  Maybe it helps them stay motivated to study and come to class prepared.


There are some hurdles which I have not completely overcome:

  1. When I pose a seriously easy question and someone answers it wrong I never know if they are just being funny or if someone still hasn’t a clue.  It is difficult to decide what percentage of wrong answers is sufficient to trigger a rehash of the concept.
  2. Students forget clickers!  I have tried to use the clickers for in-class quizzes but I always end up having some students use paper.  (I make them come sit up front to do the quiz with paper)
  3. When using clickers for quiz type activities there is still a risk of integrity violations.  Students can see which button their classmate pushes.  Especially since students tend to hold the clicker up and point it toward the screen.  Overall students prefer paper quizzes.

Conclusion and Next Steps

I have found clickers to be useful.  They do take a little more class time but for complex topics it is worth it.  We have discussed the possibility of using an application on a cell phone instead of having the students purchase a clicker.  That is something else to look at.  It would probably require students to have the ability to text and for some students that is a financial burden.  Campus has a sample set of 25 clickers and a receiver if you would like to try them!

Beth’s Kit

  • TurningPoint ResponseCardRF‘s
  • Microsoft Powerpoint with TurningPoint Software Loaded
  • TurningPoint RF receiver.
  • Participant Lists for each class containing student and the clicker which that student always uses.

Additional Resources

  • PollEverywhere.com allows students to text an answer. You can embed response graphs into your PowerPoint presentations. There are paid versions and there is also a free version.
  • There is a 25 pack of TurningPoint clickers which you can sign out from Media Services. Call the Help Desk at 330.471.8428 to make a reservation.

4 Responses to “Poll the Audience” as used in the Nursing Classroom

  • Jane Hoyt-oliver says:

    I assume that you have generated possible answers in advance. Have you found ways to assist students to think critically about problems ( e.g. Providing a scenario then asking “what should you do FIRST?.” or do you use it only for more straightforward information type questions?

  • Beth Rettew says:

    The program allows students to select from answers provided. You can also pose four correct answers and have them select which to do first if you are having them plan care. I have not used it to have them create original answers. I do not believe the software does this.

  • Adam Klemann says:

    Solutions like the polleverywhere.com allow students to do a couple different poll types including single choice (choose one of the following answers) as well as a free-form text answers (submit your questions to the presenter).

    Beth makes a good point that these are good for formative questions but do not work well for evaluative quizzing for a grade. An added benefit is that it gives the students a sense of control or, if not to that degree, a sense of participation in the course. I watched a great video last night in which Dr. Philip Zimbardo discusses the way our incoming students, especially males, have been “rewired” by the digital tools at their disposal. Here is the link to the Youtube video. It is a worthwhile ten minutes.

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