Toward consilience in the use of task-level feedback to promote learning
Publication date: Available online 12 November 2018
Source: Psychology of Learning and Motivation
Author(s): Andrew C. Butler, Nathaniel R. Woodward
Over the past 50 years, the effects of task-level feedback on learning have been investigated within three relatively isolated research traditions: experimental laboratory research, applied research in the classroom, and research on using computers for individual instruction. Within each of these areas, the accumulation of empirical findings has far outpaced the development of theory. In addition, numerous discrepancies have emerged within and among these research traditions, which is problematic for existing theory and making recommendations for educational practice. The goal of this review is to make sense of a fragmented feedback literature that is rife with (seemingly) contradictory findings by introducing theoretical ideas from other areas of human learning. We begin by providing some context through a brief history of feedback research and then describe some common flaws in feedback research that have caused much confusion in the literature. Next, we discuss three well-replicated findings from the literature that are critical to understanding how people learn from feedback and introduce new theoretical ideas that may help to explain these phenomena. Finally, we describe a few future directions for feedback research and some guidelines for how feedback can be used to promote learning in educational practice.