Everybody's Thumbs Visible/alx

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Everybody's Thumbs Visible
Contributors Christian Köppe, Michel Portier, René Bakker, Stijn Hoppenbrouwers
Last modification June 6, 2017
Source Köppe, Portier, Bakker, & Hoppenbrouwers (in press 2015)[1]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Also Known As: Thumbs Up (Thumbs Up)

You’re asking a question during a lecture which allows two answers and want all students to choose one of them.


Asking for who chooses the first answer by raising their hands and who chooses the second answer by raising their hands nearly always has the effect that a third big group is left: the ones who didn’t raise their hands at all.

It is easy to hide in a group if no one really knows what and if you have voted at all for one of the answers. So students can be passive during such activity.

On the other hand, students sometimes are not sure about the answer and therefore do not vote, even though the main goal of the question is often not to count the correct answers but to make the students think about it.


Therefore: Make the group of the first answer keep their thumbs up and the group of the second answer thumbs down. This way you see who has not decided on an answer and you can encourage them to do so or ask why they didn’t choose.

It should be clear which answer belongs to thumbs up and which to thumbs down. Drawing up and down arrows with a short hint on the answer on a visible board will help to remember this and also show the students what to do when they decided on their answer. Forcing the students to decide on one answer requires them to think about it more thoroughly.

One positive consequence is that in case you want to count the answers, you only have to count once and it is (often) easy to determine visually which choice was taken less often, so counting goes faster. If it’s not easy to determine the bigger group, then the likely result is that both groups are more or less equal.

Applying this pattern does not solve the problem issue that students who are not sure about the correct answer often follow the majority of the group. Address this by having students discussing their choice with their neighbor/s. This increases the chance that students who did vote without really knowing get an explanation for the vote of a peer student, which might help them to get a better understanding themselves.

It might be a bit turbulent when applying this pattern, as often the effect is that students start to discuss their choice with peers without being asked to do so. So one should try to apply Everybody's Thumbs Visible (Everybody's Thumbs Visible) in a quick manner and make clear upfront that the result of the vote will be discussed immediately after. Also one should not over-apply this pattern but only use it occasionally.

In a course on software design, I asked the students the question: does the application of software design patterns automatically lead to better designs? The goal of this question was to trigger a discussion about the advantages of patterns and they way they are applied best. When I asked for the yes-vote, a few students raised their hands. When asked for the no-vote, again a few students raised their hands. However, most of the students haven’t voted neither yes or no. So asked the question again, but this time required that the yes-voters use their thumbs upwards and leave them that way. The same went for the no-voters and it became obvious who hasn’t voted at all. I asked these students to think about a possible answer, based on their prior knowledge and reasons they could think of which support their decision. Afterwards, I asked randomly selected students why they had chosen for yes and no, and the given reasons formed the basis for a lively groups discussion.


  1. Köppe, C., Portier, M., Bakker, R., & Hoppenbrouwers, S. (in press 2015). Lecture Design Patterns: More Interactivity Improvement Patterns. In Proceedings of the 22nd Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2015). New York:ACM.