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“Supervised learning uses guidance and feedback from the teacher to keep the learner on track. However, if the learning is situated in a meaningful context with a meaningful goal in view, the learner should be able to cope with less teacher direction and rely solely on the direct feedback from the environment on their actions.”

Laurillard, 2012, p. 55

In the context of learning, it is important to distinguish two types of feedback, extrinsic and intrinsic. Both types are formative and influence the learner's actions but differ in their nature and sources.

Extrinsic feedback comes from the environment or the teacher. It takes the form of evaluative comments or guidance provided by the teacher to help the learner enhance their actions in line with the intended goal.

Digital learning content can include feedback that is programmed based on learner actions and outcomes. For example, a video can be enriched with interactive questions that pop up at some point, asking learners to check if they have understood what we presented so far. Or a quiz could provide explanations at the end of a submission to clarify why a specific answer is wrong. This type of feedback gives learners an expert view of content.

Intrinsic feedback, on the other hand, is inherent to the learner's actions and arises naturally as a consequence of those actions in relation to the intended goal. It allows learners to independently assess and improve their actions without the need for teacher intervention. Intrinsic feedback is valuable because it enables learners to progress towards their goals independently, without relying on constant teacher guidance or supervision.

Intrinsic feedback is more common, as it is often based on continuous interaction with the environment around us. For example, when we try to learn from a tutorial how to use a specific software application, we can check if what happens on the screen corresponds to what we wanted to do. It is the type of feedback that we use to align our performance with a desired result.

Differentiating feedback, in line with DI

As we have discussed in Module 1, Understanding by Design requires teachers to think about evaluation strategies and tools from the start of the design process, right after defining the learning objectives and right before designing and building learning content.

Feedback, both intrinsic and extrinsic, is part of the assessment process. It affects the results of learning and can be embedded in learning content, so it acts as some sort of “connector” between stage 2 and stage 3 of UbD theory.

According to Hattie and Timperley (2007), feedback should provide answers to three questions: where am I going? How am I going? Where to next? These questions can be of help in deciding where and how to introduce feedback mechanics in a course through the use of digital technology.

Where am I going?

Feedback should first of all help in clarifying what the learning goals are. A video like the one published at the beginning of module 1, with its final set of summary questions, is meant to clarify the main topics and to allow learners to tune in with a medium- or long-term effort.

Tool suggestion: In this tutorial you can learn how to embed questions in a video, to give students extrinsic feedback about how they understood its content using the Open Source H5P framework: To be able to actually create this kind of content for free, you either need an instance of H5P installed in your learning environment, or to use a free tool like LUMI

How am I going?

Feedback can help in understanding what progress is being made toward the goal. Inserting quizzes in a course allows students to keep track of their performance, but also of how much they have advanced towards a learning goal. This can be paired with a recap of elements that were addressed in the learning unit.

Tool suggestion: In this tutorial you can learn how to build a question set that can feature specific feedback for each answer given: To be able to actually create this kind of content for free, you either need an instance of H5P installed in your learning environment, or to use a free tool like LUMI

Where to next?

Intrinsic feedback can also be used to show what activities need to be undertaken - or what concepts must be understood - to make better progress. It can be embedded in the way information is presented at the level of an entire module or course, and one way to provide it is through graphic organisers. This can easily be achieved using a Learning Management System that allows displaying the full list of topics in a course and to explode single elements to drill down in content structure. We will address this more specifically in Module 4.

Tool suggestion: Checkout the “Writing a Syllabus” guide, from Cornell University: it will walk you through how to properly write a course syllabus, taking the needs of students into account:

In this module we have learned:

Feedback can be extrinsic (coming from the teacher or the environment) or intrinsic (a consequence of actions performed by the learner)

Proper feedback should allow to determine:

  • Where a learner is headed to
  • How a learner is doing
  • Which way is it possible to go


Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112.

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a design science. Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. Routledge.

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