| December 13, 2016

main purpose of feedback is to reduce discrepancies between current understandings and performance and a goal.

The Power of Feedback

John Hattie, Helen Timperley

Students can increase their effort, particularly when the effort leads to tackling more challenging tasks or appreciating higher quality experiences rather than just doing “more.” We are more likely to increase effort when the intended goal “is clear, when high commitment is secured for it, and when belief in eventual success is high” (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996, p. 260).

A critical aspect of feedback is the information given to students and their teachers about the attainment of learning goals related to the task or performance. These goals can be wide ranging and include items such as singing a song, running a race, noting beauty in a painting, sanding a piece of wood, or riding a bicycle. Judging the success of goal attainment may occur on many dimensions. The judgments may be direct, such as “passing a test” or “completing an assignment”; comparative, such as “doing better than Mary” or “doing better than last time”; social, such as “not getting a detention” or “seeking teacher approval”; engagement related, such as “singing a song” or “running a race”; or automatic and triggered outside of specific awareness, such as “doing well on a task” or “seeking more challenging tasks.” On this last type, Bargh, Gollwitzer, Lee-Chai, Barndollar, and Trotschel (2001) demonstrated that goals can promote goal-directed action (e.g., achievement or cooperation on tasks), produce persistence at task performance in the face of obstacles, and favor the resumption of disrupted tasks even in the presence of more attractive alternatives. As Black and Wiliam (1998) concluded, “the provision of challenging assignments and extensive feedback lead to greater student engagement and higher achievement” (p. 13)

Goals may relate to specific attainments or understandings or to differing qualities of experience, and they typically involve two dimensions: challenge and commitment. Challenging goals relate to feedback in two major ways. First, they inform individuals

as to what type or level of performance is to be attained so that they can direct and evaluate their actions and efforts accordingly. Feedback allows them to set reasonable goals and to track their performance in relation to their goals so that adjustments in effort, direction, and even strategy can be made as needed. (Locke & Latham, 1990, p. 23)

These levels of attainment we have termed “success criteria,” and goals without clarity as to when and how a student (and teacher) would know they were successful are often too vague to serve the purpose of enhancing learning. Second, feedback allows students (and/or their teachers) to set further appropriately challenging goals as the previous ones are attained, thus establishing the conditions for ongoing learning.