Feedback Considered Harmful

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Feedback can be harmful to learning, rather than helpful, when it’s simplistic:

Research shows the effects of feedback on learning are not always positive — and can even be negative. Our team collected and compared existing studies that looked at different methods for providing feedback in digital learning tools in order to find out which feedback methods actually improve student learning.

Digital tools, such as Improve, often give simple correct/incorrect messages to students, usually marking the answers with a tick or a cross. Research shows this kind of feedback is not effective.

Half of the studies that examined this kind of correct/incorrect feedback found that students who did not receive any feedback actually performed better than those who had received feedback.


One-third of the studies examined showed that students did not learn from being given the correct answer. Those students are more likely to disengage from the task as they can mindlessly click until they answer the task correctly without learning anything.

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