I was rereading a short section of my course book, Psychology of Learning for Instruction by Marcy P. Driscoll last night. This line jumped out at me:
“Motivation is a work-related rather than a play-related concept” Weiner as quoted by Driscoll (1990)
Now granted that Irving B. Weimer published this more then 2o years ago, it’s not hard to find examples of people looking at motivation in the context of play or gaming to better understand it’s effects on people. A good example of this was presented on Jeff Tang’s blog. In his recent post, Jeff reviewed Tom Chatfield‘s TED Talk on motivation in gaming. Much as it may have been explored previously, motivation now is regarded as a play-related concept.
From Tom’s talk, I found these ideas particularly interesting:
- when ambition is satisfied, motivation occurs
- when a person’s wanting and liking is satisfied, they are engaged
- rapid and frequent feedback is essential to learning
It’s Tom’s last point that I want to explore further in this blog post. When I performed a simple and a more advanced google search on rapid and frequent feedback, most of my hits were pertaining to gaming. Although educators are firm believers in the importance of timely (and often relevant) feedback, the field of gaming seem, at least at first, to be working extensively on this idea and exploring it’s implications.
, as described by Anne Davies, are crucial in ensuring a learner’s success and can amplify the quality of learning that takes place. Although, I may have missed with the specific wording, this is something that has been repeated in my system pd sessions for quite some time and in my local school when teacher are engaging in professional conversations. I have never had any problems or experiences that would cause me to refute such views on the importance and effects on learning. In an attempt to find out more about the specific impacts of feedback, I looked further into some research. I found this article
by Richard A Schmidt
. His article shares his research on frequent augmented feedback on the effect on learning.
From his research, Schmidt has found that:
- frequent feedback benefits performance during the acquisition stage when feedback is present and is detrimental to retention
- less frequent feedback benefits both the performance in later practice and long term retention
- frequent feedback is detrimental to learning
Now after reading this article, I was left a little baffled. How is it that everyone can be emphasizing the importance of timely, high quality feedback and that this research could be saying the opposite. Essentially, with feedback, there are two contrary views as to the importance and the impact on learning. At no point do I think that Schmidt was proposing offering very little or no feedback but rather was quantifying the direct results on acquisition and retention. Some of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I am more interested in long term results, not short term and that the retention of learning is especially interesting to me.
Later in his article, Schmidt gives some reasons why he thinks feedback has a degrading effect on learning. He hypothesizes that:
- the feedback is only available during the acquisition stage and not on the retention test which creates a dichotomy in performance contexts for learners, or they learn with feedback but are required to perform without it
- learners begin to develop a dependance on feedback
- feedback may block important information processing activities during the acquisition stage
- too many corrections creates a failure in the learner to produce stable consistent behaviour
All this being said, these hypotheses and findings from research go directly against what Tom Chatfield’s TED talk and also against popular (and educational) belief about the impact and importance of feedback. In my professional practice, I have especially found student/teacher work conferences to be of the utmost value. During these, I review student progress and have conversation with them about the successes and difficulties, and try and set specific goals that are near and attainable. I never really liked getting products at an end point without having an opportunity to review the work at least once with the student because the feedback on the work was almost irrelevant. They focused on the grade and disregarded the feedback. Furthermore, there are often helpful suggestions that can be made to improve the process or the product prior to completion. When it’s possible, I like to go through this process several times with students during an inquiry cycle or project.
All this being said, after this brief exploration, I am left wondering what the future of education might be in regards to feedback. If education begins to adopt a gaming reality, much as Tom Chatfield suggests it could and should, would a status bar (to motivate progress and perseverance) and immediate feedback truly support student learning outcomes? At this point I am skeptical but do realize that if it comes to be expected because of it’s preeminence in gaming, it could easily make it’s way into education. The more I think about Schmidt’s ideas, the more I think he may be right when he says that students could begin to rely on the feedback at the stage of acquisition and be unable to perform during the evaluation stage. (Disclaimer: I am not a big proponent of the use of tests to measure what students know and don’t know. From other blog posts, you will see that I am much more interested in having students demonstrate knowledge and skills on real-life problems)
So to start a conversation, where, when, and how do you offer feedback? From your practice, who do you think is most accurate about the reality of feedback on learning?