Explanation feedback is better than correct answer feedback for promoting transfer of learning


Journal Article

Among the many factors that influence the efficacy of feedback on learning, the information contained in the feedback message is arguably the most important. One common assumption is that there is a benefit to increasing the complexity of the feedback message beyond providing the correct answer. Surprisingly, studies that have manipulated the content of the feedback message in order to isolate the unique effect of greater complexity have failed to support this assumption. However, the final test in most of these studies consisted of a repetition of the same questions from the initial test. The present research investigated whether feedback that provides an explanation of the correct answer promotes superior transfer of learning to new questions. In 2 experiments, subjects studied prose passages and then took an initial short-answer test on concepts from the text. After each question, they received correct answer feedback, explanation feedback, or no feedback (Experiment 1 only). Two days later, subjects returned for a final test that consisted of both repeated questions and new inference questions. The results showed that correct answer feedback and explanation feedback led to equivalent performance on the repeated questions, but explanation feedback produced superior performance on the new inference questions. ©2012 American Psychological Association.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Butler, AC; Godbole, N; Marsh, EJ

Published Date

  • August 9, 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 105 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 290 - 298

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-0663

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/a0031026

Citation Source

  • Scopus