When students share incorrect or unclear comments in discussion, instructors must tread carefully. Learning how to provide clear feedback without discouraging participants from contributing altogether can be something of a balancing act. In this video, Todd Rakoff employs a range of careful strategies like follow-up questioning, wait-time, and gentle clarifications when he gives students real-time feedback. Such responses aim to increase students’ learning and deepen their engagement.
Todd Rakoff, Byrne Professor of Administrative Law
Harvard Law School
Legislation & Regulation
- Use errors and partially correct answers as opportunities to probe further thinking. Instead of immediately moving on from a student who advances an incorrect response, tap into what led them to answer how they did.
- Solicit additional responses to uncover multiple perspectives at once. After hearing a range of opinions, decisively clarify any misunderstandings.
- Be honest. It’s important for students’ understanding and emphasizes that incomplete or wrong answers can be helpful in getting to right ones.
- Consider using a schema to plan and organize questions such as established thinking routines or developmental taxonomies like Bloom’s or SOLO (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome).
- When instructors’ responses to students are clear, purposeful, and meaningful, students are better able to understand the information intended to be learned and develop metacognitive strategies for future learning (Hattie & Timperley, 2007)
- Wait-time longer than three seconds has been shown to increase the number, length, and accuracy of student responses and facilitate higher cognitive level learning (Tobin, 1987)
- The University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching provides advice on “Handling Wrong Answers” and leading students to better answers
- The Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at the University of Illinois offers a comprehensive guide of “Questioning Strategies” including pointers on responding to student answers
- An article from the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education explains best practice strategies for the use of questions in college classrooms
- The Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis shares numerous tips for “Asking Questions to Improve Learning”