Pressing students for accuracy and expanded reasoning

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

Student Group 



Harvard Law School


Legislation & Regulation

Group Size

80 students

Additional Details

First-year requisite

  • 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)