Compare Answers

Context: Students are answering the same questions and you want them to be confident in their answers.


Problem & Forces: Students need Feedback to know if their answers are correct, but may be careless if they know you always give the “right” answer. Students work at different speeds - some are more deliberative; some have more background, ability, or motivation. However, it is usually better if most of the class progresses at similar rates; if you move too quickly some will be unprepared, but if you move too slowly some will be idle and you may run out of time. In large classes, it may not be feasible to check on everyone, or to engage everyone in one discussion. Thus, teachers and students need scalable approaches for Feedback and pacing.


Solution & Consequences: Therefore, have students compare answers with each other, in a form of Peer Feedback. This also provides Misconception Assessment to help you focus on the most difficult or confusing questions. When students explain their answers, they improve their understanding and their communication skills (see Interactive Constructive Student). Compare Answers helps manage classroom pacing – students that finish quickly can help others, or move on to other tasks. Compare Answers scales well for large classes, particularly with Group Work and Self-Managing Teams (see below).

Carefully choose when and how to Compare Answers, since it takes longer than just giving answers to students. Some students expect you to be the authority, and don’t think they should be able to identify correct answers themselves; remind them that as professionals they must solve problems with unknown answers.

Discussion: Compare Answers can be especially effective with Group Work. This can be done in several ways:

  • Have each student answer the question(s) individually, then within their team and reach consensus. Then have one student from each of several teams Speak for Team to Compare Answers with the whole class to Report Out. (This is related to Think...Pair...Share)
  • Instead of answering individually, have Self-Managing Teams answer questions together, then have a few students from different teams Speak for Team to Compare Answers and Report Out.
  • Instead of having a few students Speak for Team to Report Out, have pairs of teams meet or have each team send an ambassador to another team to Speak for Team and Compare Answers. This can be more difficult to organize, but can scale well for larger classes.
  • If some teams finish quickly, have them meet or trade ambassadors to Compare Answers and resolve disagreements. Once their answers are correct, send them to help slower teams.
  • Instead of waiting for the slower teams, allow teams that finish quickly and to move on to the next questions. This might be most appropriate for difficult activities, laboratory periods, or when teams are working asynchronously.

Examples: A sample activity uses a Hi-Lo number guessing game to introduce concepts in algorithm analysis. This includes several opportunities to Compare Answers. When most teams have identified several strategies, the teacher asks each team to describe one of their strategies, so that all teams identify a rich variety. When teams rank the strategies and plot their rankings, the teacher might have each team (or a few teams) sketch or describe their rankings for the class. Later, when teams are finding the number of guess needed, the teacher could have each team compare answers with another team.

Author: Clif Kussmaul

Publication: C Kussmaul. 2016. Patterns in classroom activities for Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL). HILLSIDE Proc. of Conf. on Pattern Lang. of Prog. 23 (October 2016).

Contributors to this page: Clif Kussmaul .
Page last modified on Sat November 11, 2017 13:46:30 EST by Clif Kussmaul. (Version 4)