What can we learn from games about feedback?

A Faculty Focus article published in January 2014 discussed a study which suggests that not that many students take advantage of faculty feedback to improve their work.  The article argues that, though students are not blameless for ignoring professor’s feedback, instructors could also use some improvement in the way they provide feedback, as feedback not carefully given may be too overwhelming, underwhelming, inconsistent or even contradictory.

According to Dr. Jane McGonigal (author of Reality is Broken), good feedback happens to be one of the reasons games are addictive. Games provide great feedback so that gamers “fail early, fail often”, as Dr. James Langford would say.  Good feedback pushes gamers to the very edge of their skill.  Gamers get to experience the joy of growth in their skill in an immediate and often enjoyable way.  Exactly what do game designers to create great feedback?  And what kind of things can educators learn from game design?  Here are some ideas that may help you improve the feedback you give:

  • Great feedback has “intensity”.  In good games, feedback comes in visual (things happen on screen), quantitative (scores) and qualitative formats.  One thing we can learn from this principle is that it may benefit students to connect your grades (quantitative) with feedback (qualitative) .  It is also a great idea to connect your feedback consistently to your learning outcomes and assessment instructions.

  • Great feedback has “variety”.  Most feedback in instruction comes in written format.  It may be a great idea to increase the variety of format.   Use voice or screencast to actually show students your comments or suggestions.  This will work pretty well for the grading of written assignments.   Many applications allow you to “screencast” as you show on the screen where you would expect a student to make improvements.

  • Great feedback has “immediacy”.  In games feedback comes immediately and gamers are very well informed all the time of what they have done right or wrong.  To translate that to the design of instruction, educators may also benefit by giving feedback sooner.  Online testing is a good way for students to get feedback immediately.  With standardized testing, they can see the results immediately after they complete a test, what the correct answers are and where they made mistakes.  Waiting too long may cost you the loss of student interest in learning where their mistakes are.

  • Great feedback has “motivation”.  In games, feedback improves “a powerful sense of control” and “self-efficacy” for learners (McGonigal, 229).   In the design of instruction, try thinking of ways to accomplish similar results.  What if you design your course in a way that students can actually use your feedback to improve their assignment and thereby change their grades as a result?  Yes, that would be “gaming” the system, but in a good way.

 

Share with us if you have some great methods to provide feedback to benefit students.

 

Reference:

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. (2011) (Reprint edition.). Penguin Books.

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