Students’ problem-solving success depends on more than their knowledge and abilities. One factor that may play a role is the teacher’s expectations of students. The current study focused on how a teacher’s explicitly-stated expectations influence students’ ability to learn from corrective feedback during problem solving. On the one hand, setting low expectations (e.g., this task is hard, you’ll likely fail) may help students avoid disappointment in response to negative feedback, thereby facilitating student learning. On the other hand, setting low expectations may produce a self-fulfilling prophecy in which negative feedback confirms the teacher’s expectations and hinders student learning. In a controlled experiment, undergraduate students (N = 160) were randomly assigned to one of four conditions based on a crossing of two factors: teacher expectations for the student (success or failure) and verification feedback during problem solving (yes or no). Posttest performance revealed that feedback had negative effects when teachers set low expectations for students. Results suggest that basic feedback may be more beneficial when teachers help students set their expectations for success.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Bangert-Drowns, R. L., Kulik, C.-L. C., Kulik, J. A., & Morgan, M. (1991). The instructional effect of feedback in test-like events. Review of Educational Research,61, 213. https://doi.org/10.2307/1170535.
Booth, J., Oyer, M., Pare-Blagoev, J., Elliot, A. J., Barbieri, C., Augustine, A., et al. (2015). Learning algebra by example in real-world classrooms. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness,8, 530–551. https://doi.org/10.1080/19345747.2015.1055636.
Brophy, J. E., & Good, T. L. (1970). Teachers' communication of differential expectations for children's classroom performance: Some behavioral data. Journal of Educational Psychology,61, 365–374. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0029908.
Brosvic, G. M., Epstein, M. L., Cook, M. J., & Dihoff, R. E. (2005). Efficacy of error for the correction of initially incorrect assumptions and of feedback for the affirmation of correct responding: Learning in the classroom. The Psychological Record,55, 401–418. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03395518.
Butler, A. C., Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L. (2007). The effect of type and timing of feedback on learning from multiple-choice tests. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied,13, 273–281. https://doi.org/10.1037/1076-898X.13.4.273.
Butler, A. C., Godbole, N., & Marsh, E. J. (2013). Explanation feedback is better than correct answer feedback for promoting transfer of learning. Journal of Educational Psychology,105, 290–298. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031026.
Butterfield, B., & Metcalfe, J. (2001). Errors committed with high confidence are hypercorrected. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition,27, 1491–1494. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-7318.104.22.1681.
Chin, C. (2006). Classroom interaction in science: Teacher questioning and feedback to students’ responses. International Journal of Science Education,28, 1315–1346. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500690600621100.
Cianci, A. M., Schaubroeck, J. M., & McGill, G. A. (2010). Achievement goals, feedback, and task performance. Human Performance,23, 131–154. https://doi.org/10.1080/08959281003621687.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
DeCaro, M. S., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2012). Exploring mathematics problems prepares children to learn from instruction. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,113, 552–568. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2012.06.009.
Dorow, L. G., & Boyle, M. E. (1998). Instructor feedback for college writing assignments in introductory classes. Journal of Behavioral Education,8, 115–129.
Fazio, L. K., & Marsh, E. J. (2009). Surprising feedback improves later memory. Psychonomic Bulletin Review,16, 88–92. https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.16.1.88.
Fazio, L. K., Huelser, B. J., Johnson, A., & Marsh, E. J. (2010). Receiving right/wrong feedback: Consequences for learning. Memory,18, 335–350. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211003652491.
Friedrich, A., Flunger, B., Nagengast, B., Jonkmann, K., & Trautwein, U. (2015). Pygmalion effects in the classroom: Teacher expectancy effects on students’ math achievement. Contemporary Educational Psychology,41, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.10.006.
Fyfe, E. R., & Brown, S. A. (2018). Feedback influences children’s reasoning about math equivalence: A meta-analytic review. Thinking & Reasoning, 24(2), 157–178. https://doi.org/10.1080/13546783.2017.1359208.
Fyfe, E. R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2016). Feedback both helps and hinders learning: The causal role of prior knowledge. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(1), 82–97. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000053.
Giambra, L. M. (1995). A laboratory method for investigating influences on switching attention to task-unrelated imagery and thought. Consciousness and Cognition,4, 1–21.
Hattie, J., & Gan, M. (2011). Instruction based on feedback. In R. Mayer & P. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of research on learning and instruction (pp. 249–271). New York: Routledge.
Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research,77(1), 81–112. https://doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487.
Hattie, J., & Yates, G. (2014). Using feedback to promote learning. In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, & C. M. Hakala (Eds.), Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. https://teachpsych.org/ebooks
Hays, M. J., Kornell, N., & Bjork, R. A. (2010). The costs and benefits of providing feedback during learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17(6), 797–801. https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.17.6.797.
Hoffrage, U., Kurzenhauser, S., & Gigerenzer, G. (2005). Understanding the results of medical tests: Why the representation of statistical information matters. In R. Bibace, J. D. Laird, K. L. Noller, & J. Valsiner (Eds.), Science and medicine in dialogue: Thinking through particulars and universals (pp. 83–98). Westport: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group.
Hom, H. L., & Maxwell, F. R. (1983). The impact of task difficulty expectations on intrinsic motivation. Motivation and Emotion, 7(1), 19–24. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992962.
Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1973). On the psychology of prediction. Psychological Review,80, 237–251. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0034747.
Kapur, M. (2012). Productive failure in learning the concept of variance. Instructional Science,40(4), 651–672. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-012-9209-6.
Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1996). Effects of feedback intervention on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin,119, 254–284. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.119.2.254.
Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1998). Feedback interventions: Toward the understanding of a double-edged sword. Current Directions in Psychological Science,7(3), 67–72.
Koriat, A., & Ma'ayan, H. (2006). The intricate relationships between monitoring and control in metacognition: Lessons for the cause-and-effect relation between subjective experience and behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,135, 36–69. https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-3422.214.171.124.
Kulhavy, R. W., Yekovich, F. R., & Dyer, J. W. (1976). Feedback and response confidence. Journal of Educational Psychology,68, 522–528. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-06126.96.36.1992.
Langrall, C. W., & Mooney, E. S. (2005). Characteristics of elementary school students' probabilistic reasoning. In G. A. Jones (Ed.), Exploring probability in school: Challenged for teaching and learning (pp. 95–119). Boston, MA: Springer.
Mangels, J. A., Good, C., Whiteman, R. C., Maniscalco, B., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Emotion blocks the path to learning under stereotype threat. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience,7, 230–241. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsq100.
Marsh, E. J., Lozito, J. P., Umanath, S., Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2012). Using verification feedback to corret errors made on a multiple-choice test. Memory,20, 645–653. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2012.684882.
Merton, R. K. (1948). The self-fulfilling prophecy. The Antioch Review,8, 193–210. https://doi.org/10.2307/4609267.
Mory, E. H. (2004). Feedback research revisited. In D. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology: A project for the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (2nd ed., pp. 745–783). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Norem, J. K., & Cantor, N. (1986). Anticipatory and post hoc cushioning strategies: Optimism and defensive pessimism in “risky” situations. Cognitive Therapy and Research,3, 347–362.
Pashler, H., Cepeda, N. J., Wixted, J. T., & Rohrer, D. (2005). When does feedback facilitate learning of words? Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition,31, 3–8. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-73188.8.131.52.
Rosenthal, R. J., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom: Teacher expectations and pupils’ intellectual development. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Rubie-Davies, C. M. (2017). Teacher expectations in education. New York: Routledge.
Rydell, R. J., & Boucher, K. L. (2017). Chapter two: Stereotype threat and learning. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology,56, 81–129. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aesp.2017.02.002.
Schwartz, D. L., Chase, C. C., Oppezzo, M. A., & Chin, D. B. (2011). Practicing versus inventing with contrasting cases: The effects of telling first on learning and transfer. Journal of Educational Psychology,103(4), 759–775. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025140.
Shute, V. J. (2008). Focus on formative feedback. Review of Educational Research,78, 153–189. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654307313795.
Smallwood, J., Fishman, D. J., & Schooler, J. W. (2007). Counting the cost of an absent mind: Mind wandering as an unrecognized influence on educational performance. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review,14, 230–236.
Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist,52, 613–629.
Swanson, S. D., & Tricomi, E. (2014). Goals and task difficulty expectations modulate striatal responses to feedback. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience,14, 610–620. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-014-0269-8.
Sweller, J., van Merrienboer, J., & Paas, F. (1998). Cognitive architecture and instructional design. Educational Psychology Review,10, 251–296.
Thomas, R. C., & McDaniel, M. A. (2013). Testing and feedback on front-end control over later retrieval. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition,39, 437–450. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028886.
Timms, M., DeVelle, S., & Lay, D. (2016). Towards a model of how learners process feedback: A deeper look at learning. Australian Journal of Education,60, 128–145.
Van der Kleij, F. (2015). Effects of feedback in a computer-based learning environment on students’ learning outcomes: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research,85, 475–511. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654314564881.
Support for this research was provided in part by Institute of Education Sciences, U. S. Department of Education, training Grant R305B130007 as part of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research Postdoctoral Training Program. The authors would like to thank Haley Beers and Alexis Hosch for help with data collection and coding.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Fyfe, E.R., Brown, S.A. This is easy, you can do it! Feedback during mathematics problem solving is more beneficial when students expect to succeed. Instr Sci (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-019-09501-5
- Teacher expectancy
- Problem solving