Answer feedback advise


I know I've learned this somewhere but haven't used in forever so can't remember. 

When providing feedback to incorrect answers, what is the best practice / least likely to confuse the learner?

1) Provide them a hint to what the real answer is? (as an "instructor" I'm not inclined to this. Like to make them work for the answer)

2) Provide information on the incorrect response which further develops or reinforces the information thus providing them a learning opportunity to realize why the answer was incorrect. 


2 Replies
Ray Cole

I like to think of feedback as coming in three possible levels (I'm following Michael Allen's lead here):

  1. Judgment: Correct/incorrect
  2. Explanation: Correct because.../Incorrect because....
  3. Consequence: Your boss was so pleased! Congratulations, you've been promoted!/Because you failed to <whatever>, you and your boss are now being sued in court. 

The most effective and memorable level is usually "Consequence" often combined with a "Try Again" button that allows the learner to back up and try different choices in the event he or she answered incorrectly.

If the activity involves a longer series of choices before reaching the consequence, then I might include both a "Try Again" button and a "Continue to Debrief" button. The latter would take me to a review of each of my choices and why they were good or bad. This would allow learners to explore the possibilities via the "Try Again" option, but if they weren't able to find the optimal solution after a few tries, they could give up and learn from the after-activity debrief instead.

Another strategy is to ask the question in 2 parts. The first part is the main question--e.g., This scaffold has been "green-tagged" by the competent person at the start of your shift. It's now 1:00 PM and you and your crew are returning from lunch. Roll over the various highlighted parts of the scaffold to get a closer look at them, and then decide: Is it OK for you to get onto this scaffold?

The learner answers either "Yes" or "No" but then, instead of giving correct/incorrect feedback, you follow the question with a second-level question that asks learners to articulate their REASON for answering "Yes" or "No," e.g., You indicated that it is not safe for you to use this scaffold. Identify your reason:

  • Toeboard is missing
  • One or more wheels is unlocked
  • My presence would load the scaffold above its rated carrying capacity
  • etc.

In the case that learners answered the initial question correctly, they have a chance in the 2nd level question to articulate why. In the case that they answered the initial question incorrectly, having to identify why will likely clue them in that they answered incorrectly in the first question.