Feedback both helps and hinders learning: The causal role of prior knowledge

Feedback both helps and hinders learning: The causal role of prior knowledge

Article Review

Fyfe, E. R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2016). Feedback both helps and hinders learning: The causal role of prior knowledge. Journal of Educational Psychology108(1), 82.


The article “Feedback both helps and hinders learning: The causal role of prior knowledge” is a research article on the psychological effect of feedback on learning. The paper focuses on both the positive and negative impact of feedback that can be single out from the performance of a learner. According to Fyfe & Rittle-Johnson (2016), feedback is information on individual performance or knowledge that they can choose to apply, reject, modify or confirm their prior knowledge on the subject. This information is not constant since it can vary from one form to another. The researchers choose to focus on two types of feedback, that is, verification plus the right answer and wrong-right verification. The main research question of the study is how prior knowledge influences the outcome of the effect of feedback on an individual. The objective of the study to determine the impact of antecedent information on the consequences of feedback on learners. The question matters because it is crucial for teachers and parents to know how prior knowledge affects the behavior and performance of the students and children respectively whenever they provide them with feedback on their actions. In this case, the study evaluates whether the presence or absence of feedback will affect the performance of children with prior knowledge. The knowledge gained from the research will improve both the learning and parenting process. The null hypothesis of the study is prior information does not have any effect on the impact of feedback. The researchers have cited one past research that supports this null hypothesis. According to Fyfe & Rittle-Johnson (2016), the information contained in the feedback did not have any effect on the impact of prior knowledge. Whether the information is correct or not, it would not have any effect on the learner.


The researchers used an initial study sample of 159 children who included both third- and second-grade children. By using the inclusion and exclusion criteria, the sample size was reduced to 108 children; 41 boys and 67 girls. Although there was no gender balance, the difference was not quite significant. The median age of the children was 8.4 years with the minimum age being 7.2 years and the maximum 9.8 years. The researchers used screening criteria on the children to measure their understanding of math equivalence. Besides, they were assigned four questions whereby two of those questions gave the researchers an opportunity to assess the effect of prior knowledge.

Results and Discussion

The results of the study reject the null hypothesis. According to the study findings, prior information affects the impact of feedback, particularly wrong-right verification feedback. The findings of this study can have some real-world implication on learning techniques. In this light, some of the current teaching methods should be changed since they negatively affected the children’s learning process. Although the study has contributed positively to the research on the effects of feedback and prior knowledge, there are still a few gaps that are yet to be addressed to improve learning. An example is a fact that there is no assessment indicating the adverse effect prior knowledge has on feedback. Additionally, negative input from sources that have a personal touch can have an impact on an individual’s self-esteem as compared to no feedback. This is a significant concern since children with low self-esteem tend to exhibit negative behavior change. Hence, the researchers should have put more emphasis on negative feedback.

Individual summary and critique of articles

The article has similar results to the group articles I reviewed earlier. It supports that prior information affects the impact of wrong-right verification feedback only. However, the group article lightly investigates the positive and negative effect of prior knowledge on the child’s learning ability. Both papers are essential for my research work as they serve as a guide on how to measure the effect of prior knowledge. However, there is minimal information on the adverse impact of feedback in both articles then the need for in-depth research for concrete evidence that supports the relationship of prior knowledge and feedback.