Describe SII (Strengths, Improvements, Insights)

Context: You want to provide Feedback to help students see what is good about their work as well as what could be better. In particular, you want to help students improve their current work and their work processes, to help improve future work.


Forces & Problem: It can be difficult to provide effective feedback on higher-level tasks. For simple, low-level tasks (rote learning, following procedures) feedback is often easier and can sometimes be automated, but as the work items Climb Bloom’s Taxonomy and become more complex and individual, it becomes more difficult and time-consuming for one teacher to provide feedback that is differentiated and objective. If the feedback is mostly positive, the recipient might not see how much the work could be improved; if it is mostly negative, the recipient might reject it. If the feedback is too general, it might be hard to improve the work; if it is too specific, it might result in a specific set of changes without broader improvements. Detailed feedback takes more time, and the recipient might ignore it, or have trouble deciding which items to focus on. Peer Feedback is more scalable, but students with limited experience benefit from more guidance giving feedback. Finally, feedback should prompt both students and teachers to Think About How You Work, to improve not just the current work, but the underlying process, so that future work will improve as well


Solution & Consequences: Therefore, describe a few key Strengths, Improvements, and Insights (SII). Every piece of work, no matter how poor, has some good qualities, so identify 2-3 areas of strength and explain why each is important to do well. Similarly, every piece of work, no matter how good, could be better, so identify 2-3 areas for improvement and suggest how to improve each. Finally, reflect on the strengths and improvements, and identify some broader insights relevant in other situations. This can help to improve future work as well. SII statements tend to be general and high level, so you might want to support them with specific details.

Discussion: An SII is a simple but flexible technique to give Feedback (including Peer Feedback) and Think About How You Work. It can be used for many types of student work - a specific activity or assignment, a larger project, a course or curriculum, a conference presentation, a journal article, etc. Like Three Stars and a Wish, an SII includes both praise (star or strength) and suggestions (wish or improvement); and the insights prompt students to Think About How You Work to improve the process and future work. An SII can be used in many other settings, such as a colleague teaching a class or writing a paper, a team that you work with or lead, etc.

Like any Feedback, an SII should vary with the context and the people who give and receive it. SIIs will likely focus on broader structure for an early draft, and narrow details for a final draft. SIIs for a novice student might be more specific and detailed than for a more experienced student (or a professional colleague) with whom there is more shared context, vocabulary, and history. Similarly, SIIs reflects the experience and perspective of the person giving it – a technical expert, a writing expert, and a fellow student will give quite different feedback.

You can Describe SII (Strengths, Improvements, Insights) in a variety of ways:

  • Provide formative feedback when you review an early draft of student work.
  • Provide summative feedback when you evaluate and grade student work.
  • Summarize common themes or issues across a group or entire class.
  • Have each student do an SII for their own work, perhaps using a detailed rubric.
  • Have each student do an SII for you as their teachers

For Peer Feedback, particularly with Groups Work or Self-Managing Teams, you could:

  • Have students do SIIs for work by other students. This might also help the reviewers see similar issues in their own work.
  • Have each student do an SII for their team, or an individual SII for other members of their team.
  • If you , have one role (e.g. the Reflector or Strategy Analyst) do a team SII.
  • If each student does an SII, use to distill and share common or useful SII elements with the team and then the larger class.
  • If each team does an SII, have them present it to the team, and then to the larger class.

Examples: For an essay or other written assignment, SII statements might include:

  • Improvement: This paper contains many statements that are not supported with references or other evidence. I’ve marked a few with question marks, but there many others.
  • Insight (for student): This is your third late paper. Perhaps you should start your work sooner?
  • Insight (for teacher): Assignment like this seem particularly difficult for international students. Maybe I should provide them extra help, or revise the assignments.

Author: Clif Kussmaul

Publication: C Kussmaul. 2017. Patterns in classroom facilitation for Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL). HILLSIDE Proc. of Noridc Conf. on Pattern Lang. of Programs. 17. (Mar-Apr 2017)


Contributors to this page: Clif Kussmaul .
Page last modified on Sat November 11, 2017 13:20:20 EST by Clif Kussmaul. (Version 1)