Effect of Feedback on Student Motivation
In EFL lessons, there are several types of feedback that students can receive. First, there is feedback from the teacher; this can come in many forms such as “going through activities, checking students’ answers, giving praise and encouragement, correcting, setting regular tests, having regular group discussions, individual tutorials, etc.” (International TEFL and TESOL Training [ITTT], 2011, p. 16). Secondly, there is feedback from other students, also referred to as peer evaluation. These can take place in similar settings to teacher feedback and is often used by instructors to promote student-student interactions. And lastly, there are self-evaluations in which students reflect and assess their work. Information covered in the ITTT (2011) courses would indicate that all three forms of feedback are indispensable to promoting student motivation, and should be used in a balanced manner whenever possible.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Aki T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Points to consider before giving feedback
While the effects of feedback may vary by factors such as type, frequency, and timing, the consensus is that feedback helps students’ motivation and self-efficacy (Komarraju, Musulkin, & Bhattacharya, 2010; Trolian, Jach, Hanson, & Pascarella, 2016). Whether it be formal or informal, increased interaction with the instructor and their peers creates positive relationships conducive to learning. It encourages learners by signaling that their progress is being valued (Komarraju et al., 2010; Trolian et al., 2016). Furthermore, personalized, specific feedback on students’ work tend to motivate them more than general comments (Zacharias, 2007). Positive feedback acts as an affirmation to learners that they are performing well and further incentivizes them to work harder toward their goals (Tsao, Tseng, & Wang, 2017). The benefits of feedback are not exclusive to ones from the teacher—in some cases where there the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers are clear, e.g. in multiple-choice tests, the overall influence of self-evaluations and teacher feedback do not differ significantly. A study conducted on a graduate-level statistics class found that students exposed to the two formats of feedback yielded similar grades at the end of the course (Gibbs & Taylor, 2016). It is important to note, however, that certain topics and groups of students (e.g. adult learners who are initially more motivated to learn) may respond differently to feedback. Overall, feedback is crucial for any EFL class, as it allows the student to gauge their progress and motivates them to improve accordingly.
Motivation and feedback
Nonetheless, feedback can be detrimental to student motivation in certain contexts. In certain cultures where teachers are highly regarded as authority figures, peer- and self-evaluations can be seen as less valuable than feedback from an instructor (Tsao et al., 2017). Having an imbalance between comments from teachers and other sources can lead students to believe that they are not receiving adequate support, thereby decreasing their motivation to learn (Zacharias, 2007). In contrast, a general abundance of feedback can overwhelm some students as well; excessive feedback can imply to the students that they have too many obstacles to overcome (Pokorny & Pickford, 2010; Zacharias, 2007). While students with high intrinsic motivation (willingness derived from within oneself) may take this feedback in stride and effectively improve upon it, students with low or extrinsic motivation (motives enforced from external factors, i.e. a parent ‘forcing’ them to attend or a mandatory workplace requirement) may perceive this as criticism and develop anxiety and a fear of being wrong (Tsao et al., 2017) Some teachers attempt to mitigate this by wording everything positively. This practice is discouraged by some scholars who state that the disconnect between overly optimistic feedback and negative external grades can confuse and discourage students (Pokorny & Pickford, 2010). To minimize these disadvantages, teachers should be aware of these factors, and carefully consider the nature of their individual students to consistently provide fair and honest feedback that best fits their needs.
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It is crucial in an EFL environment to balance the type, frequency, tone, etc. of the feedback to ensure it does not hinder the students’ linguistic progress. Despite these potential setbacks, feedback of all variations remains a necessity in the EFL classroom, particularly for promoting student motivation.
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