Good Job!

Last week, I started re-reading a classic in the e-Learning literature, Clark and Mayer’s e-Learning and the Science of Instruction. In Chapter 12: Does Practice Make Perfect?, the authors outlined six principles for practice. I will highlight Principle 3: Provide effective feedback.

I have written here before on feedback (see the posts Three Types of Feedback and Practice + Feedback = Improved Learning Outcomes). What I got from Clark and Mayer’s take on practice feedback, that I have not seen, was the tip to avoid phrases that “draw attention to the ego and away from learning” (p. 267), such as “Well Done!” (p. 267), “Good job!”, “Nice work”. The tip struck me because I have been the recipient of such phrases and have written those phrases in feedback to my students.

Clark and Mayer  wrote that practice feedback should be explanatory, assisting learners in building appropriate “mental models” (p. 263). Using a phrase such as “Good job” or “Well done” may make the student feel good about himself or herself; however, when the phrase is used in isolation– without specific explanatory feedback on what was done well or what was good about the response, product, or presentation–it misses an opportunity to provide the learner with information on the specific knowledge, skills, or competencies that are accurate and should persist in future work. Likewise, practice feedback for an incorrect response that does not provide explanatory feedback, that is feedback that stops at merely informing the learner that a response is incorrect but does not tell the learner what is incorrect and how the response may be improved, misses a “teachable moment” (p. 263) for the learner.

In conclusion, telling a learner that the work he or she produced is good is  OK, or telling a learner that his or her work is incorrect is OK, but failing to tell the learner what makes the work good is NOT OK, and failing to tell the learner what is wrong with incorrect practice work and how to improve it is NOT OK. Remember to provide explanatory feedback.

See the post Three Types of Feedback, for descriptions of adequacy, diagnostic, and corrective feedback, from Robert Mager’s book Making Instruction Work.

e-Learning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard Mayer


Be Extraordinary!


Three Types of Feedback

Dictionary entry for the word Feedback
Nick Youngson – link to –

Good instruction provides learners opportunities to practice the objectives (sometimes called learning objectives, performance objectives, behavioral objectives). Practice without feedback is futile.  Here is the takeaway, instruction should provide practice opportunities and practice opportunities must include feedback.  Mager (2012) described three types of feedback–

  1. Adequacy feedback tell a learner if his or her performance is acceptable
  2. Diagnostic feedback tells a learner what is wrong with his or her performance
  3. Corrective feedback tells a learner how to improve his or her performance

Mager, R.F. (2012). Making instruction work. Carefree AZ:  Mager Associates, Inc.

Practice + Feedback = Improved Learning Outcomes

Learners must be given the opportunity to practice using the skills and concepts presented in an instructional unit.  Low stakes–not a significant percentage of grade or not for credit– practice tests provide learners the opportunity to check their understanding of the material presented and also allows instructors to learn of gaps in learner knowledge or learner misconceptions. Practice tests that provide feedback for responses are more effective in improving learning outcomes than practice tests that do not provide feedback.  Telling learners why the answer they selected or provided is correct, confirmatory feedback, or why the answer they selected or provided is incorrect, corrective feedback, facilitates greater understanding and helps to extinguish misconceptions.