Taking a page from the video game playbook

Why is it that a child can spend hours glued to his Xbox, but can’t sit still for ten minutes to complete a single page of math homework? Sure, video games are fun—and math?—well, maybe not as much.

But there’s more to it than that, as we note in our September column in Educational Leadership. Research strongly suggests that timely, appropriate feedback can positively impact student achievement. In an updated meta-analysis conducted for the second edition of Classroom Instruction That Works, researchers found an effect size for feedback of .076, or about a 28 percentile point achievement difference.

Prensky suggests that video games are addictive, at least in part, because they provide prompt, actionable feedback that allows players to adjust their strategies for near-immediate results. So does it make sense for teachers to take a cue from Guitar Hero and adjust their feedback to provide real-time results for their students?

Like most education issues, it’s not quite that straightforward. Feedback that’s delivered weeks after an assignment or test, when students have moved on to other subjects and tasks, clearly isn’t optimal. Immediate feedback works best in most cases, and may help students avoid misperceptions when they’re wrestling with complicated concepts or procedures. However, some research suggests that feedback that is too immediate can lead students to give up too easily; in other words, when students know that their teacher will provide the correct answer within microseconds, they’re less inclined to work through any frustration to complete the work on their own. For tasks involving extending and applying knowledge (writing an essay, for example), slightly delayed feedback gives students a chance to self-correct and take responsibility for their learning objectives.

Though technology can be a double-edged sword, when it comes to feedback, Zelda and Guitar Hero may be on to something: Feedback that’s relevant, specific, and delivered in time can influence student performance.

Written by Bryan Goodwin, Vice President of Communications, Marketing and New Business Development and Kirsten Miller, Lead Consultant

One Comment

  • Lauren D says:

    I have been stressing myself over how my second grade students can so easily play video games for hours but asking them to follow a simple direction is like pulling teeth. I have tried to include video-game like elements into my teaching but I never thought of the correlation between the feedback from video games to the student’s school work feedback. It may put more stress on the teacher to quickly grade the students work but if the results are positive it is worth it. Thanks for the advice!

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