Elaborated feedback and learning: Examining cognitive and motivational influences


The effects of feedback vary widely and little is known about how feedback influences learning. This study investigated the complexity of elaborated feedback (additional instructional information of the correct answer) and item format as influences on learning in a computer-based formative assessment. Undergraduate students (N = 107) were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions formed by a 2 (complexity of elaborated feedback: detailed explanation in the form of concise problem-solving steps or cue in the form of key formula) × 2 (item format: multiple-choice items or constructed-response items which require learners to produce answers without response alternatives) factorial design. Results revealed that item format moderated the effect of feedback complexity on learning: Detailed explanation promoted learners' feedback perception (learners’ response to the quality and use of feedback) and transfer performance in the constructed-response item condition. Detailed explanation resulted in lower extraneous cognitive load but higher germane cognitive load and learning motivation than cue; constructed-response items resulted in lower intrinsic and extraneous cognitive load but higher germane cognitive load than multiple-choice items. Furthermore, the assumed indirect effects were verified: Feedback perception fully mediated the moderating effect of item format on feedback complexity and transfer performance; feedback complexity had an indirect effect on transfer performance via germane cognitive load. The results have implications for matching item type and feedback type to maximize learning.

Publication Title

Computers and Education