Is that correct? Clarifying the effects of feedback during mathematics problem solving
Fyfe, Emily Ruth
Feedback can be a powerful learning tool, but its effects vary widely. Research suggests that feedback may have positive effects for those with low prior knowledge, but neutral or negative effects for those with higher prior knowledge. However, no causal link between prior knowledge and feedback has been established. Further, reasons underlying the potential negative effects remain unclear. Across four experiments, I examined the roles of prior knowledge and feedback during mathematics problem solving for elementary school children. In Experiment 1, I randomly assigned children to condition based on a crossing of two factors: induced strategy knowledge (yes vs. no) and immediate, verification feedback (present vs. absent). Feedback had positive effects for children who were not taught a correct strategy, but negative effects for children with induced knowledge of a correct strategy. In Experiments 2, 3, and 4, I induced strategy knowledge in all children and randomly assigned them to one of three conditions: no feedback, immediate correct-answer feedback, or summative correct-answer feedback. Results from Experiment 2 (tutoring context) and Experiment 3 (classroom context) were consistent with Experiment 1 and demonstrated negative effects of feedback. However, in Experiment 4, the experimenter’s presence was removed and feedback was presented solely by the computer. In that case, feedback had positive effects. Results provide evidence for a causal role of prior knowledge and indicate that feedback can both help and hinder learning. Further, results suggest that individual attention on the self may play a role in the negative effects of feedback.