Use these strategies to get students to identify their misconceptions about course content and to consider the opinions of their peers.



Read about Polling @ McGill.


  1. Using their mobile devices, ask students to open polling software.
  2. Project a question on screen or write it on the board. The question should take into consideration students’ typical misconceptions of a given concept.
  3. Poll the class.
  4. Display the results.
  5. Ask students to address the question in pairs.
  6. Poll the class again.
  7. Display and compare responses.


In a plant science course, “What is the appropriate method of watering a typical orchid?”

  1. Water daily with a watering can.
  2. Put three ice cubes near the roots every week.
  3. Stand the plant in water for a short period of time.
  4. Spritz leaves with a spray bottle regularly.

Drawing for understanding

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions, and OneDrive and Zoom


  1. Ask students to illustrate an abstract concept or idea.
  2. Have students compare drawings.
  3. Address any misconceptions that become apparent.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.


Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom


  1. Pose a question (orally, in writing on a board, or projected onto a screen).
  2. Ask students to think about the question on their own (1-2 min.).
  3. Ask students to pair up with someone sitting near them and discuss their responses/thoughts (2-3 min.).
  4. Regroup as a whole class and call for volunteers or randomly choose a few pairs to share their responses.


  • In an epidemiology course, students offer potential diagnoses and treatments based on photographs of medical conditions and patient case histories.
  • In an education course that addresses classroom management, students describe how they would respond to an off-task student’s interruptive behavior. Students come up with a solution individually, then justify it in pairs, and then come to a consensus on an appropriate approach to the scenario.


  • Intentionally choose different pairs to give summaries of their ideas each time this activity is carried out.
  • Have students work together to create a synthesis of ideas or come to a consensus.
  • After the pairs have discussed their responses, have two pairs discuss together (in groups of four students), in lieu of randomly choosing pairs to report out to the entire class.
  • Use visual stimuli (e.g., photographs, diagrams) as prompts for discussion.

Pre-and post-quizzes

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions


  1. Create a 1-page quiz that addresses the primary focus of the class.
  2. Have students take the quiz at the beginning of the session, and then set it aside.
  3. Proceed with class instruction.
  4. Leave adequate time at the end of the session for students to take the same quiz again, and compare their responses to the previous quiz. Students will immediately see what they have learned.
  5. Have students turn in their quizzes, thereby affording you timely feedback on students’ learning.

Ensure that sufficient time is allotted to convey the correct answers at the end of the session and to answer any questions that arise as a result.


In an introductory biology course, students are asked to put the steps for meiosis in order and label the structures both prior to and following the class instruction.


  • Student responses to the pre-quiz can be incorporated into review sessions later in the course.
  • Students can write a one-minute paper following the quiz to summarize what they learned.


While this web page is accessible worldwide, McGill University is on land which has served and continues to serve as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. Teaching and Learning Services acknowledges and thanks the diverse Indigenous peoples whose footsteps mark this territory on which peoples of the world now gather. This land acknowledgement is shared as a starting point to provide context for further learning and action.

Back to top