Feedback – how learning occurs

The title of this piece, “Feedback – how learning occurs” is not an original title but cited from the title of an article by Dr. Grant Wiggins.  Dr. Wiggins earned his Ed.D. from Harvard University and is president of Authentic Education in Hopewell, New Jersey.  In this article he suggests,

“Feedback is a word we use unthinkingly and inaccurately.  We smile at a student, say ‘good job!’ and call it feedback.  We write ‘B-‘at the top of a paper and consider it feedback.  We share a score on the state test with a student and his parents and consider it feedback.

But feedback is something different. It is useful information about performance. It is not praise, it is not evaluation, it is not a number on a standardized test. So, true feedback is critical—perhaps the key element—in effective learning.   No goal worth meeting is ever met without good feedback and opportunities to use it”  (Wiggins, 2010).

 Quality “feedback arms students with a more adequate and accurate sense of how well they are meeting the learning objectives in ways that sustain and enrich learning itself” suggests Richard Keeling and Richard Hersch coauthors of We’re Losing Our Minds, Rethinking American Higher Education.  “Testing takes place”, suggests Keeling and Hersch, “but usually at a point at which it is too late for feedback to be useful and rarely at a level of sophistication that does justice to higher learning” (Keeling & Hersch, 2012).

In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman (2011) provides this helpful insight, “The acquisition of skills requires a regular environment, an adequate opportunity to practice, and rapid and unequivocal feedback about the correctness of thoughts and actions.  When these conditions are fulfilled, skill eventually develops, and the intuitive judgments and choices that quickly come to mind will mostly be accurate” (Kahneman, 2011).

Soccer great Pele is credited with saying, “Practice is everything”; certainly the essence of skill development and mastery.  However Ken Blanchard reminds us that, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”


Works Cited

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Keeling , R., & Hersch, R. (2012). We’re Losing Our Minds, Rethinking American Higher Education. New York, New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Wiggans, G. (2010). Feedback: How Learning Occurs. Retrieved February 17, 2012, from

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