Hattie, Timperley. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112 (24 pages)

This is my favorite sentence: “In general, feedback is psychologically reassuring, and people like to obtain feedback about their performance even if it has no impact on their performance” (p. 95). “Simply providing more feedback is not the answer, because it is necessary to consider the nature of the feedback, the timing, and how a student “receives” this feedback (or, better, actively seeks the feedback). As already noted, students can bias and select feedback information” (p. 101).

“[F]eedback is conceptualized as information provided by an agent (e.g., teacher, peer, book, parent, self, experience) regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding. A teacher or parent can provide corrective information, a peer can provide an alternative strategy, a book can provide information to clarify ideas, a parent can provide encouragement, and a learner can look up the answer to evaluate the correctness of a response” (p. 81). “It is most powerful when it addresses faulty interpretations, not a total lack of understanding” (p. 82). But feedback is not a reinforcer (like in behaviorism), it may initiate no further action. Also, it can be both intentionally and unintentionally sought by learners ,not simply provided by someone or something to the learner.

“Those studies showing the highest effect sizes involved students receiving information feedback about a task and how to do it more effectively. Lower effect sizes were related to praise, rewards, and punishment” (p. 84). “[F]eedback is more effective when it provides information on correct rather than incorrect responses and when it builds on changes from previous trails” (p. 85).

Feedback model

How to reduce the gap? Provide appropriate challenging and specific goals. “[T]eachers can create a learning environment in which students develop self-regulation and error detection skills” (p. 87). Where am I going? How am I going? and Where to next? – these questions aren’t solely the domain of teachers, learners can ask them from themselves, too. Feedback allows learners to set new goals once the current ones were attained.

“Too often, the feedback given is unrelated to achieving success on critical dimensions of the goal. For example, students are given feedback on presentation, spelling, and quantity in writing when the criteria for success require, say, “creating mood in a story.” Such feedback is not effective in reducing the gap relating to the intention of creating mood” (p. 89). “Teachers and parents often assume that students share a commitment to academic goals, whereas the reality is that developing this shared commitment needs to be nurtured and built” (p. 89).

How am I going? “Feedback is effective when it consists of information about progress, and/or about how to proceed” (p. 89). Where to next? Provide “information that leads to greater possibilities for learning. These may include enhanced challenges, more self-regulation over the learning process, greater fluency and automaticity, more strategies and processes to work on the tasks, deeper understanding, and more information about what is and what is not understood” (p. 90).

Feedback at self-level is least effective, feedback about the task level is most powerful. Process level and self-regulation level can be powerful. Feedback at task level: “feedback about how well a task is being accomplished or performed, such as distinguishing correct from incorrect answers, acquiring more or different information, and building more surface knowledge. This type of feedback is most common and is often called corrective feedback or knowledge of results, and it can relate to correctness, neatness, behavior, or some other criterion related to task accomplishment” (p. 91). “FT is more powerful when it is about faulty interpretations, not lack of information. If students lack necessary knowledge, further instruction is more powerful than feedback information” (p. 91). Too much feedback is detracting from performance: focus of trial-and-error efforts and on immediate objectives, not goals. It should be simple. Too much feedback on incorrect answers results in a leaners remembering the error itself. Plus, it’s extra information detracting from the correct response. Written comments are more effective than grades (they don’t affect performance, though can increase involvement), it’s better not to include both.

Feedback on processing tasks. Providing oneself with feedback is in focus (students’ own strategies for error detection). Can give cues that lead to “information search and use of task strategies. Cues are most useful when they assist students in rejecting erroneous hypotheses and provide direction for searching and strategizing” (p. 93). This feedback enhances deeper learning. Good when combined with task feedback.

Feedback about self-regulation. Kind of internal feedback. Self-assessment is (a) self-appraisal (review of knowledge and abilities) and (b) self-management (planning and correcting). “Feedback has its greatest effect when a learner expects a response to be correct and it turns out to be wrong” (p. 95). If low expectation and wrong answer, feedback is ignored. Better option—further instruction. Instrumental help-seeking – seeking for hints, not feedback. But it’s emotional: can be a threat to self-esteem.

Feedback about the self of a person. It doesn’t result in learning gains. “It is important, however, to distinguish between praise that directs attention away from the task to the self (because such praise has low information value to achievement and learning) and praise directed to the effort, self-regulation, engagement, or processes relating to the task and its performance (e.g., “You’re really great because you have diligently completed this task by applying this concept”). This latter type of praise can assist in enhancing self-efficacy and thus can be converted by students back into impact on the task, and hence the effects are much greater” (p. 96). Praise can be unwelcome if the learning environment doesn’t praise achievement. Praise is generalized and never seems to be attached to a specific task that the learner has done. Leads to social comparisons, self-handicapping, learned helplessness (p. 97).

Timing of feedback. Immediate good for easy tasks, delayed for midrange and difficult tasks.

Positive/Negative feedback effects. “positive feedback increases motivation relative to negative feedback for a task that people “want to do” and decreases motivation relative to negative feedback for a task that people “have to do”” (p. 99).

Feedback and assessment. “Assessment can be considered to be activities that provide teachers and/or students with feedback information relating to one or more of the three feedback questions (at the FT, FP, or FR level)” (p. 101). I don’t understand this, but it is ineffective.

“With inefficient learners, it is better for a teacher to provide elaborations through instruction than to provide feedback on poorly understood concepts” (p. 104).


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