Does Feedback Improve Performance?

Why is this question important? Feedback has been touted as a useful method for improving performance in sports, business, and education. It is a core component of practices such as formative assessment and coaching. Classroom teachers use feedback as a teaching technique each day. Given that feedback is commonly used in education, it is important that we empirically evaluate the impact of feedback and gauge its effectiveness as a tool in teaching students and managing teachers.

See further discussion below.


Source(s): (1) Effects of Immediate Performance Feedback on Implementation of Behavior Support Plans, 2005; (2) The Effects of Feedback Interventions on Performance: A Historical Review, a Meta-Analysis, and a Preliminary Feedback Intervention Theory, 1996; (3) Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, 2009; (4) Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, 2001; (5) Productive Teaching, 1999; (6) A Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Enhanced Instruction: Cues, Participation, Reinforcement and Feedback, and Correctives on Motor Skill Learning, 1989; (7) Can Comprehension Be Taught? A Quantitative Synthesis of "Metacognitive" Studies, 1988; (8) Instructional Effects of Cues, Participation, and Feedback: A Quantitative Synthesis, 1982; and (9) Providing Performance Feedback to Teachers: A Review, 2004.

Result(s): John Hattie (2009) identified feedback as the single most powerful educational tool available for improving student performance. Six of the seven studies in the graphic above including Hattie’s, found that feedback had a medium to large effect size, ranging from 0.66 to 0.94.
Only one analysis, Kluger and DeNisi (1996), found that feedback had less than a medium effect, defined as 0.50. Its comprehensive look at over 600 individual studies on feedback found an overall average effect size of 0.41, as well as negative results for feedback in one third of the studies. The meta-analysis also found that the method in which feedback was provided significantly affected the results. Feedback that focused on how to improve performance on the task and avoided being personal was powerful, producing positive results. On the other hand, feedback that was personal consistently produced a negative effect size.
The results of the six studies in which feedback was found to have a medium to large effect size indicate the following:

  1. Feedback produces the best results when it is objective, reliable, measurable, and specific (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001).
  2. Feedback that provides the person with sufficient information on what needs improvement and how to improve produces achieve best results (Marzano et al., 2001).
  3. Immediate feedback produces the best results (Codding, Feinberg, Dunn, & Pace, 2005; Scheeler, Ruhl, & McAfee, 2004).
  4. Feedback produces the best results when it is delivered frequently (Hattie, 2009; Marzano et al., 2001).
  5. Feedback produces the better results when it is directed at the performance and actually produces negative effects when it is personal (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996).

Implication(s): Feedback can be a powerful tool for improving both student and teacher performance, but to be effective it must be systematically implemented and monitored.

Author(s): (1) Robin S. Codding, Adam B. Feinberg, Erin K. Dunn, and Gary M. Pace; (2) Avraham N. Kluger and Angelo DeNisi; (3) John Hattie; (4) Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock; (5) Herbert J. Walberg; (6) Gershon Tenenbaum and Ellen Goldring; (7) Ellen P. Haller, David A. Child, and Herbert J. Walberg; (8) Richard S. Lysakowski and Herbert J. Walberg; and (9) Mary Catherine Scheeler, Kathy L. Ruhl, and James K. McAfee.

Publisher(s): (1) Journal Of Applied Behavior Analysis, (2) American Psychological Association, (3) Routledge, (4) Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), (5) McCutchen Publishing, (6) Journal of Research and Development in Education, (7) American Educational Research Association (AERA), (8) American Educational Research Association (AERA), and (9) Sage Press.

Study Description: All the studies cited here were quantitative studies examining the general effects of feedback and covering nearly 30 years of research between 1982 and 2009. All used effect size to evaluate the impact of feedback on performance. The studies cited examined the use of student and teacher feedback.

Definition(s): Coaching: Collaborative work between trainer and trainee to solve problems or answer questions that arise during implementation of the newly acquired skill in the classroom.

Feedback: Information provided to teachers on student performance as well as information provided to students on their own performance that functions to correct or maintain performance.

Formative assessment: Frequent and ongoing feedback on the effects of interventions on student performance obtained through the collection of data throughout the school year. The data is used to verify student progress and to indicate when adjustments are needed because of insufficient progress.


Codding R. S., Feinberg, A. B., Dunn, E. K., & Pace, G. M. (2005). Effects of immediate performance feedback on implementation of behavior support plans. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 38(2), 205-219.

Haller, E. P., Child, D. A. & Walberg, H. J. (1988). Can comprehension be taught? A quantitative synthesis of "metacognitive" studies. Educational Researcher, 17(9), 5-8.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.

Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), 254-284.

Lysakowski, R. S., & Walberg, H. J. (1982). Instructional effects of cues, participation, and feedback: A quantitative synthesis. American Educational Research Journal, 19(4), 559-578.

Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Scheeler, M. C., Ruhl, K. L., & McAfee, J. K. (2004). Providing performance feedback to teachers: A review. Teacher Education and Special Education, 27(4), 396-407.

Tenenbaum, G., & Goldring, E. (1989). A meta-analysis of the effect of enhanced instruction: Cues, participation, reinforcement and feedback, and correctives on motor skill learning. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 22(3), 53-64.

Walberg H. J. (1999). Productive teaching. In H. C. Waxman & H. J. Walberg (Eds.) New directions for teaching, practice, and research (pp. 75-104). Berkeley, CA: McCutchen Publishing.