Encouraging Student Responses and Providing Engaging Feedback


Unit 4 Introduction

Asking a great question is ubelievably important, but it is only the first step in a three step process. The Initiate-Response-Feeback Model of questioning encourages deep discussion that builds student comprehension. This lesson will focus on how to encourage excellent student responses. Issues such as appropriate wait time, where to stand, how to call on the student and other factors will be covered to increase the likelihood that students will have success on their higher order thinking questions. Then the steps to provide feeback so the answer is critiqued but the discussion does not die will be covered. The teacher must let the student know if they were "right" but leave the door open for other viewpoints and opinions so multiple students can join in. The teacher reaction to student responses needs to always create a safe environment and set a tone that encourages the entire class to participate.

Unit 4 Objectives

1) In a social studies classroom the student (classroom teacher) will be able to effectively elicit deeper student responses.

2) In a social studies classroom the student (classroom teacher) will be able to provide feedback that expands the discussion while still informing the student if their answer had merit.


It is imperative that educators appropriately assist students with their responses in order to increase student comprehension of topics. Assist in this case does not necessarily mean "help" in the traditional sense of providing little pieces of information to help the student arrive at the answer. Assist means a variety of steps and methods that a teacher can do to help elicit successful student answers. The professional development program Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement [1] states the importance of assisting students during their response. Perhpas, according to TESA, the most important task that a teacher can do to help the student is to give appropriate wait time. Teachers often rush the answers out of students because there is always the bell to be worried about, but with higher order questions students often need a good amount of time. If a student needs to recall facts, use those facts to formulate a stance, decide how they will defend their stance, and then figure out how to say their argument for the class, sometimes up to a minute is needed. The general rule of thumb is around 5 to 10 seconds, but the tougher the question, the longer the wait time needs to be.

Another important task the teacher must do while the student is trying to respond is based on proximity. Where the best spot to stand while a student answers is determined on a case by case basis. However, there are some principles to guide a teacher on where to stand. If a student is nervous and shy it is often helpful for their confidence if the teacher moves closer, so the student perception is they are only answering for the teacher and not to the whole class. Sometimes, the teacher standing right over the student makes them doubt their answer, so it is better to slightly drift away while still maintaining focus on the child according to TESA. It is also very important that the teacher keeps a safe environment for student responses. The teacher must be sure that all students are listening and being respectful of the student and do not call out during their answers. Confidence often leads to better responses so it is necessary the students feel confident that they can answer without interruption or judgement from their peers.

When the student has completed their response it is time for the teacher to provide feedback. Feedback is the third and final phase of the Initiate-Response-Feedback Model of quesitoning, and it is a crucial one where the discussion must be kept going. This is where the teacher cannot simply evaluate the answer. "That is right Jim" or "I am sorry Shaina but that is wrong" sell the class short. Feedback can include some evaluation, but it should not end the conversation. If the teacher says, yes this is right and then reiterates the point, the class is done with the question. If the teacher comments on the answer, and creates another quesiton out of it, then the discussion continues and other students join in. Cotton in her article points out the importance of having multiple students answer, not the same question exactly, but a continuous build up.[2] The student uses facts to form their reasoning, the teacher can expand on that by asking the class if anyone saw those same facts but in a different light or viewpoint. Providing engaging feedback can evaluate answers, but it must ensure more students join in and keeps the students thinking. The teacher cannot simply say, this is how it is. The students must come to their own conclusions and if they do they will master the material.

One aspect of feedback is when students become stuck on a question. If the student does not know it and the teacher just moves on, too often students will just shrug and say that they do not know. Also, some students think they do not know but they really do. When this is the case the teacher's feedback needs to revolve around delving questions. The teacher can back up from the higher order question and build up with smaller questions to help the student through their thinking process. Or, the teacher can pose a delving question where the student is asked to explain their logic on a certain point, and often the student will realize their own mistake or misconception. These delving questions allow the whole class to gain knowledge on the topic and to comment or question their own reasoning. Delving engages students with the material and takes away a lot of the fear some students have about answering questions in front of the group.


1) After reading the mini-lecture and looking at the TESA website and Cotton's article, discuss thoughts and opinions about what to do during student responses and teacher feedback in the discussion section. Response & Feedback

2) Once again it is time to take this lesson and see the benefits in the classroom. If you are taking this class with another teacher in your school, you will have to arrange a period where you can observe them, and one period where they can observe you. Go into each other's social studies rooms and observe the impact of what the teacher does during student responses and how teachers craft their feedback. Observe how when the teacher moves closer to the student who is nervous to answer the student often gains confidence and answers. Watch how the discussion just ends when the teacher provides an evaluative statement instead of posing a delving question or creating another question based on the response of that student. Watching another teacher is essential for this activity, because one cannot really watch themselves. The concern of the classroom management and content will outweigh one's thinking about student responses and evaluating how one is doing. Watching and looking for these tasks in person will greatly enhance one's understanding of the importance of student response and teacher feedback.

3) Create a list of techniques you might try to help 5 specific students answer quesitons. Choose 5 of your students who are either shy or just apprehensive about answering questions and think of 3 or 4 things you can try to assist them in answering the question. Whether its providing delving questions or proximity, come up with a couple of ideas and then implement them and see the improvement in the student's answers.


This lesson showed how valuable encouraging student responses and providing engaging feedback are to the learning process. Students answering questions have different needs so the teacher must adapt for each individual student, but the general principles normally can be followed. We have now seen how important discussion is, how the IRE Model is not effective, and now we have learned how to make a great higher order question and how to improve student responses and to keep the discussion going with appropriate feedback. These are all the aspects to a social studies classroom where the students are engaged and actively participating in discussion. All that is left now is to tie it all together.

Go on to Unit 5 Putting it All Together: The IRF Model

Return to Effective Social Studies Classroom Discussion