Not all feedback interactions are helpful

I’ve just finished reading Kluger & DeNisi’s meta-analysis of the impact of feedback interventions on performance. (Kluger, A.N. & DeNisi, A. (1996) The effects of feedback interventions on performance : a historical review, a meta-analysis, and preliminary feedback intervention theory, Psychological Bulletin, 119 (2), 254-284. It’s rather theoretical and I didn’t understand all of it, but there are some clear messages.

Firstly,  ‘feedback interventions’ (which they define as actions taken by external agent(s) to provide information regarding some aspect(s) of one’s task performance) are not the same as feedback. I think that’s a useful distinction.

Secondly, in the 131 papers included in the meta-analysis (representing 607 effect sizes, 12,652 participants and 23,663 observations), whilst on average feedback interventions had a moderate positive effect on performance, over 38% of the effects were negative. These reported negative effects are frequently ignored, as we continue to assume that feedback interventions  are always beneficial. The paper goes on to develop a ‘feedback intervention theory’, seeking to identify ways in which the effectiveness of feedback interventions can be improved. There is a crying need for more work in this area.

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