From parliament to X Factor – voting and choice play an important part in everyday life. Voting also has a place in the learning environment and can help increase engagement with a particular topic or theme. Allowing learners to vote or poll on a topic of training improves their overall satisfaction of the training. By giving learners a choice, they are more likely to engage and be satisfied with the learning that follows. The theory behind this research focuses on an early learning environment, looking at the way children learn. ‘When children perceive that they have control over their actions, as compared with being controlled by others or the environment, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated (Grolnick, Gur-land, Jacob, & Decourcey, 2002; Ryan & Deci, 2000a; Skinner, Zimmer-Gembeck, & Connell, 1998; Turner,1995).’ I found this to be true with adult learners as well. When postgraduate researchers were given a choice of breakout training sessions to attend, their feedback from the training was more positive than on the occasions where no choice was offered.

Using voting can be a very effective and quick technique to gauge feedback and insight into the training experience. The voting can be a show of hands in relation to questions, a ‘clapometer’ where participants give a round of applause for each question (the loudest or longest applause is the preferred response). Both methods work well when the questions are short, simple and directly follow the activity. Taking a picture or recording the audio means that an accurate record can be captured. However, as this method is quite informal – it is generally best used to ‘test the temperature’ rather than to reach a precise decision.

A more accurate way to vote is using technology – either through the use of voting pads such as ‘Turning Point’ or iPad voting applications such as ‘Nearpod’. These technologies record the number of voters and allow data to be captured and extracted. It does require planning ahead and some logistical arrangements but is an instant and effective way to gain feedback.

With voting the results are instant as learners can exercise choice. In doing this they are developing and considering the learning content in detail. A choice makes us think and mentally explore options which effectively encourages learning rather than simply accepting the information presented. The process is active not passive and learners feel involved so instantly engage in the development experience.

The voting can be conducted in private or openly. When the polling is open it’s possible for the audience to see what the breakdown of the poll is. This mechanism is useful as individuals can see how others are voting and there is an acceptance of the outcome. The polling mechanism is fair and transparent and this is important for trying to reach a conscientious. Even students who wanted to cover a topic that wasn’t the most popular vote seem happy to go along with the outcome.

Voting also works well were there are variations in ability and preparation. Again the ‘fairness’ and ‘openness’ of the voting generates an acceptance that everyone is different – at different stages or has different views and opinions.

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”

― Larry J. Sabato, Pendulum Swing

Polling provides us with unique results that are completely dependent on those involved. The benefit of polling in a learning environment is that it can be shaped and moulded by those in it. The learners become the developers and design the direction of their own learning experience. The learner is in charge and this produces engagement and better understanding of the subject as a result!

Take part in my mini online poll about learning experiences. There are 6 short questions to gauge feedback on the learning experience and the information will used to help identify ways of enhancing the learning experience, click here to take part:

This theme has been taken from: E.R. Stories – Enabling Researchers Stories. By Davina Whitnall

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