Task Expectations Influence Learning from Feedback

AbstractThe effects of feedback often depend on individual learner characteristics. In the current study, we experimentally tested whether an individual’s task expectations influence learning from feedback on mathematics problems. Specifically, we manipulated undergraduate students’ beliefs about the difficulty of the task to influence their expectations for success. Students (N = 160) were randomly assigned to one of four learning conditions based on a crossing of two factors: task expectations (easy or hard) and feedback during problem solving (yes or no). On a final transfer test, feedback led to higher scores than no feedback for those who expected the task to be easy. But, feedback led to marginally lower scores for those who expected the task to be hard. Results suggest that expecting the task to be hard and to experience failure can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. When learning from feedback, students should set their expectations for success.

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