It’s a veritable feast! Feedback sandwiches, retell burgers and auditory sandwiches.

An illustration of a burger on a pale blue background.
Burgers and sandwiches – foody frameworks to reduce threats in learning.

It’s a veritable feast! Foody frameworks to reduce threats in learning.

Feedback sandwiches, retell burgers and auditory sandwiches – so many options to nourish our learners. Reducing threats and minimising distractions is the goal of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines checkpoint 7.3.  Sandwiches and burgers are some examples that work toward this goal.

The optimal instructional environment offers options that reduce threats and negative distractions for everyone. The aim is to create a safe space in which learning can occur. The CAST UDL guidelines on minimising threats and distractions explains in more detail. Many of their recommendations are suited to school and higher education settings.

Foody Frameworks

First, the feedback sandwich. A feedback sandwich is where specific commentary on an area of improvement is ‘sandwiched’ between two examples of positive feedback. Of course, each piece in the sandwich needs to be genuine and matched to the goals of the exercise. Googling ‘feedback sandwich’ proves the concept to be quite contentious with both strong proponents and opponents. Some opponents suggest the positive feedback is merely praise. To make the feedback meaningful, whether noting positives or focusing on areas of development, it must be specific and communicated clearly.

Next, with a similar ‘sandwiching’ concept is the auditory sandwich. This strategy reduces perceived threat by supporting a learner’s comprehension. Where learners are required to process information using auditory channels, the facilitator provides the verbal information (instruction, direction, new vocabulary), which serves as the bread in the sandwich. The filling represents a visual which is produced after the verbal instruction. After sufficient time to process the visual, the auditory information is provided again. Specific keywords should be stressed or noted through intonation or volume change, for example. Providing multiple means for the student to take in the information reduces cognitive load and supports understanding, thereby reducing ‘threat’.

The final example is ‘retell burger’. This scaffold takes a similar visual approach to support understanding noted in the previous examples. The retell burger is a framework to support students to note key information. There are many variations of this idea, both in terms of the framework and its application to different activities. In one example, the top burger bun is the main idea or key concept, the tasty fillings (onion, tomato, lettuce) are a number of key facts and details or story complication, a hearty cheese slice reminds the student to note the resolution or conclusion, and the bun base rounds out the burger by supporting the learner to make connections or draw conclusions.

Scaffolds and strategies such as these foody frameworks to reduce threats in learning are easily implemented in many learning scenarios. The CAST webpage on mininising threats and distractions lists the following:


    • Create an accepting and supportive classroom climate
    • Vary the level of novelty or risk
      • Charts, calendars, schedules, visible timers, cues, etc. that can increase the predictability of daily activities and transitions
      • Creation of class routines
      • Alerts and previews that can help learners anticipate and prepare for changes in activities, schedules, and novel events
      • Options that can, in contrast to the above, maximise the unexpected, surprising, or novel in highly routinised activities
    • Vary the level of sensory stimulation
      • Variation in the presence of background noise or visual stimulation, noise buffers, number of features or items presented at a time
      • Variation in the pace of work, length of work sessions, availability of breaks or time-outs, or timing or sequence of activities
    • Vary the social demands required for learning or performance, the perceived level of support and protection and the requirements for public display and evaluation
    • Involve all participants in whole-class discussions

Gastronomic delights are specific strategies educators implement to reduce threats in a given learning situation.

To read of other specific strategies to work towards the UDL checkpoint goal of recruiting interest, see our other posts:

IKEA hack to promote student interest and choice: Strategies to optimize individual choice and autonomy.

From Realia to Social Stories: Strategies to optimise relevance, value and authenticity.

There are more practical suggestions on reducing barriers to learning on the CUDA website.

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