A multiple choice question appears on the projector and all of the sudden you hear the clicking of 34 different remotes — each click representing a vote from a student in the class. Steve Weissman stands in the front of the class and after he closes the poll a chart is displayed on the screen. The results are surprising. After a short moment, Weissman initiates an engaging discussion about the results.
Weissman teaches Energy Regulation and the Environment and several other courses here at UC
Berkeley Law. When the lecture topic turned to nuclear power, Weissman knew that the topic would be controversial and he was interested to hear what his students thought about it. In past years, he would just ask for a show of hands — who thought that nuclear power should be an important part of the energy formula going forward? He found that the electronic polling adds several elements — the ability to getcloser to people’s private feelings on the topic, the chance to ask several nuanced question instead of just one, and the immediate ability to look at the results in graphic form. Some results were more surprising than others, but the class discussion was engaging. Students seemed eager to explain their votes, backing up their viewpoint with insightful information and reasoning.
Taking an electronic poll in the classroom is a surefire way to get everyone engaged with the conversation at the same time. It creates a sense of community in the room, as everyone tries to understand the basis for the group’s collective response. The survey is anonymous but people are eager to share their responses. This process brought people into the mix whose voices I didn’t usually hear.
– Professor Weissman
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