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Teacher feedback: "very good"

Hello friends, An article I read some time ago by Wong and Waring (2009) made me think about my feedback to learners. How often do I respond by saying “very good” when students give a correct answer to my questions and then quickly move on? I recognized that my behavior was similar to what the authors described. When students responded to a question correctly, I would often say “good” and quickly go on to the next thing.

Wong and Waring suggested that when I quickly move on after a student gives a correct response, other students who may still have questions are often reluctant to ask, thinking they are the only ones who did not understand. When students give a correct answer, the authors suggest that a useful way to respond would be to HESITATE, similar to the way we do when students offer an incorrect answer, and ask the student to explain her thinking. In this way, the student responder gets to deepen her understanding and enhance her academic language skills, and the rest of the students get to hear the thinking that supported the correct answer to the question.

Students are well aware of how teachers respond when their answers are right or wrong. The authors argue that HESITATING for both correct and incorrect answers sends learners a different signal and allows space for students to explain their thinking. This practice also opens a window for other students to raise questions.

What do you think about responding with “good” or “very good”? Do you think the authors’ idea about hesitating in response to both correct and incorrect answers has merit? What are some good strategies you employ for providing feedback to learners?

Cheers, Susan

Assessment COP Moderator

Reference: Source: Wong, J. & Waring, H. Z. (2009). ‘Very good’ as a teacher response. ELT Journal 63(3).


Connie Rivera's picture
One hundred

I've been conscious of this and have worked really hard on it.  I have gotten much better at my "poker face" over the past few years.  Students new to my class are much more likely to change their correct answer, simply because I paused and said something like, "Can you explain why?"  When I don't jump in immediately with a "you're right" type of answer, they question themselves.  We get into the swing of things and every one learns that they need to back up their answers and that I'm going to take several possible answers before we decide.  Everyone is still thinking throughout this process rather than sitting back thinking:  so-and-so has the answer, so I'll just wait for them to say it.

Another thing that I notice about class dynamics is that at the beginning, class participation is by a few bold students.  As the semester goes on, participation evens out and we hear from everyone voluntarily.

I had a very rewarding math class yesterday in our YouthBuild program - and I wasn't even doing a bit of instruction!  I got to see one the benefits of training students to explain their thinking to each other.  I had to help a student with something unrelated to what I'd planned for class.  The other students had several activities to go through that I had planned to lead, and I decided to leave it with them and see what they could do.  I was able to listen in at various points and I was sooo impressed with their discussion.  They were taking turns explaining their reasoning, drawing pictures to defend their solutions, and helping each other see another way without giving them the answers.  If you'd seen a "before" and "after" snippet of this group, you'd have been amazed!

One person that doesn't give out answers - or even all the pieces of the problem:


Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Connie, Thank you for sharing your approach. You are mirroring exactly what Wong and Waring as well as Dan Meyer recommend. The anecdote from your classroom illustrates your success in supporting students to take initiative and to use higher-order thinking in math. It's all about how teachers structure the class, isn't it?

The TED talk by Dan Meyer is brilliant! I hope everyone will find time to watch it and offer comments.

Cheers, Susan

Assessment COP Moderator