Rethinking feedback in learning

Does feedback always improve learning?

Instructional designers often assume that feedback is necessary in learning design to correct errors, confirm knowledge, and provide direction, especially in asynchronous learning. Writing feedback is such a common task in elearning design that most rapid authoring programs have quiz-making features to automate it for instructional designers. They provide some variation on the default “Yes – that’s correct!” and “Sorry, try again.” responses. If your project timeline and budget allows, you can customize the responses to specific selections. But is feedback always valuable? Does it lead to better learning?

Not always. Feedback can’t overcome deficiencies or problems in the learning content or design. In other words, if learners don’t understand the content, feedback after quizzes or activities won’t solve the lack of understanding. The better solution is to redesign the course content, activities, and assessments.

Feedback is most beneficial to reinforce difficult or challenging content, and refresh content that learners have forgotten. Feedback also helps learners navigate their own path and set their own goals through the learning content, important features for self-directed learners.