Questions as feedback

I’ve recently been mulling when and how to provide quiz feedback.

Whilst the general principle of providing feedback is sound: logically, we do have to inform a learner if something they are doing is incorrect. The form this should take is debatable. Some options are:
  • Right / wrong only
  • Explanation of why the right answer is right
  • Explanation of why wrong answers are wrong
  • Something new that I’ve just thought of – keep reading!
An issue here is that there’s quite a lot of effort required to write explanations. You could end up writing a textbook’s-worth of content that is rarely even seen. I’m also unconvinced of the value of such explanations in many cases. Many misconceptions persist despite pupils being told the correct answer.


An aspect of feedback that is much easier to configure is when to deliver the feedback. Various sources have convinced me that a small delay in feedback might have a significant impact on how much the question is thought about. There’s something intuitively right about the idea that a learner might find a question superficial if the answer is easily/rapidly available. Therefore, I’m aiming for an experience more like the common classroom model:
  1. Respond to a batch of questions first
  2. Then answers are shared for marking

Unlike the classroom experience, I’d provide the score before the question-by-question review. Also I’d not provide anything more than correctness indication on questions that were answered correctly.

So what is my new idea…

Feedback questions

As mentioned before, feedback explanations are effortful and, possibly, not very effective. A smarter way to follow up would be to ask a further question. (If you’re UK-based and reading in 2017, think of it like automated green pen work.)

This further question would be selected to investigate the nature of the misconception – asking about the same concept in a alternative or simpler way.

  • For the learner, this should make them think carefully about why they answered the original question incorrectly.
  • For the teacher they get an additional piece of diagnostic information that will help them to understand the pupil’s original misconception.

Driving creation and reuse

Writing these follow up questions may sound harder than writing feedback explanations – it is! The difference is that you can/will pull on existing questions (reuse) and any that you do create will be useful in their own right (the database becomes more complete).

The journey…

What does it look like when put all together…

  1. Pupil answers a series of questions (one-at-a-time)
  2. Pupil sees their score
  3. Pupil is invited to review answers (now provided as a list with their response showing, and correctness indication – tick/cross)
  4. Where a question has been answered incorrectly, a further question is offered – this time with instant feedback. (this could even be threaded – continuing to ask relevant questions until a correct answer is given)
  5. Once the related question has been answered, pupils may reattempt the original question.
  6. Teacher can review all interactions/responses via the dashboard.

*QuestionsDB is a content management system I’m building for the back-end of the quiz.

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