Suggestions for Verbal Feedback

Positive Feedback for a Correct Response, Comment, or Appropriate Question

The following scenario demonstrates three possible ways a TA could respond to a student question. Specific features of the response are discussed beneath each scenario.

Scenario: A TA is lecturing on the musical structure of a piece of classical music and a student asks, "Can some sections be left out?"

Option 1: "Thanks for bringing that up. The question was, 'can some sections be left out?' Does anyone think they know the answer?"

  • 'Thanks' validates student participation.
  • Restating the question for the class ensures that everyone can heard what was asked.
  • Passing the question on to the whole class encourages participation.

Option 2: "Interesting question. The question was 'can some sections be left out?' In fact, more often that not, extra sections or movements are added. For example . . ."

  • Starting with a positive response validates student participation.
  • Restates the question for the class so everyone can hear.
  • Allows the TA to move into a lecture-style format and present additional information.

Option 3: "Good question. The question was 'can some sections be left out?' I believe this type of music requires that all sections we've talked about be included but I am not sure. I will look into it and let you know by email. In the meantime, is there anyone else who knows?"

  • Positive response.
  • Restates the question for the class so everyone can hear.
  • Admits the TA does not know the answer (honest response) and demonstrates accountability.
  • Passes the question on to the class for group participation.

Positive Feedback for an Incorrect Response, Comment, or Appropriate Question

The following scenario demonstrates three possible ways a TA could respond to a student question. Specific features of the response are highlighted below.

Scenario: In a Biology class the TA asks: "Who can tell me what distinguishes an animal cell from a plant cell?" A student responds, "Well, I don't think a plant cell has a cell wall" (an incorrect response).

Option 1: "OK, let's back track. Who remembers the characteristics of a plant cell from last week?"

  • Does not emphasize the student's mistake.
  • Serves as a way to review and consider recent material.

Option 2: "No, that is not quite right. One of these cells has a wall while the other does not. Can you remember what distinguishes the two?"

  • Encouraging feedback that does not alienate the student.
  • Restates the student's response and clarifies what is incorrect.
  • Uses the incorrect response as a chance to compare two concepts and to review other material.

Scenario: In a Statistics class a TA is discussing the Chi-square test. A student asks, "Can't we just use a T-test instead?"

Option 1: "Good question, lets take a moment to discuss the reasons why we would choose a Chi-square test over a T-test."

  • Serves as a way to review and compare recent material (a good study technique).

Option 2: "Does anyone else find the distinction between these two tests confusing? After class I will post a chart on OWL that compares these two tests for you to use. For now, let's focus on the Chi-square test."

  • Underlies the need to move on, but demonstrates compassion for the student and an interest in supporting continued learning.