Effects of Feedback on Learning Strategies in Learning Journals: Learner-Expertise Matters

Effects of Feedback on Learning Strategies in Learning Journals: Learner-Expertise Matters

Julian Roelle (University of Bielefeld, Germany), Kirsten Berthold (University of Bielefeld, Germany) and Stefan Fries (University of Bielefeld, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1858-9.ch008
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Feedback on learning strategies is a promising instructional support measure. However, research on the expertise reversal effect suggests that if instructional support measures are provided to expert learners, these learners would have to integrate and cross-reference redundant instructional guidance with available knowledge structures, resulting in less available resources for effective learning processes. Thus, feedback might be detrimental for learners who possess high-quality learning strategies. Against this background, the authors used an online learning management system to employ a feedback procedure that included highly elaborated feedback on learning strategies in a learning journal. The effects of this feedback procedure were tested in a field study using a within-subject design with the factor feedback (no vs. yes). Participants were 246 university students who wrote journal entries over an entire term. The results show that providing feedback to low expertise learners is effective, whereas the effectiveness of feedback is reversed regarding high expertise learners.
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Feedback is a common instructional support measure. It is often part of the teaching process in online instructional design and is usually presented as information to a learner in response to previous performance by the learner’s part (Shute, 2008). Feedback thus is a consequence of performance. Generally, feedback is regarded as crucial in improving cognitive skill acquisition (Moreno, 2004) and has been referred to as one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). However, despite the widespread acceptance of feedback in online instructional design, empirical studies show that feedback does not necessarily result in performance gains (Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Shute, 2008). The inconsistent effects of feedback might be partly due to interactions between the level of learners’ prior knowledge and the scaffolding provided by feedback. In cognitive load theory, such interactions are referred to as expertise reversal effects (Kalyuga, 2007; Kalyuga, Ayres, Chandler, & Sweller, 2003). The expertise reversal is a reversal seen in the relative effectiveness from instructional support measures (e.g., providing scaffolding feedback: yes vs. no) when levels of prior knowledge in a domain change (Kalyuga & Renkl, 2010).

Taking the case of providing highly elaborated feedback on learning strategies in a learning protocol, for example, a prototypical instance of such an interaction could contribute to inconsistent effects of feedback as follows: On the one side, for learners who possess low quality learning strategies prior to feedback, highly elaborated feedback might compensate for their insufficient knowledge base resulting in increased performance. For high expertise learners, by contrast, highly elaborated feedback might offer redundant instructional guidance. In this case, due to the need to cross-reference redundant instructional guidance with available knowledge structures (Kalyuga, 2007), feedback might decrease learners’ performance. In the field of providing feedback on learning strategies, however, this effect has not yet been taken into account.

In this article we will present arguments based on cognitive load theory as well as empirical evidence that show how highly elaborated feedback on learning strategies in learning protocols can interact with learners’ expertise on learning strategies and yield inconsistent effects. In the following sections we will first discuss instructional support measures (i.e., prompts and feedback) and empirical findings with respect to fostering learning strategies in learning protocols. Subsequently, we will link our discussion on fostering learning strategies to the expertise reversal effect and its potential contribution to inconsistent effects of feedback.

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