Feedback: Knowledge of Results

Early research conducted viewed that KR is essential for learning (Thorndike, 1931).  According to Schmidt (1982), performers cannot evaluate the outcome of skills without feedback information. Furthermore, it was stated that although KP is presented to signal movement patterns, performers do not have a reference against which to evaluate the feedback (KR), therefore no information about the success of the response. Work undertaken by Wulf & Shea (2004) identified KR as a key tool in improving motor skills and learning, but that the role of augmented feedback in the early stages of learning remains uncertain.

An analogy that is used often is that more precise, quantitative KR is in the main more effective than qualitative KR (Schmidt & Lee, 1999). Providing information about the magnitude of the error is beneficial to performers, but this can be enhanced if knowing that an error was made in a particular direction. This view was supported by Wulf & Shea (2004), stating that KR eliminates the need for error detection, and serves as error correction on subsequent trials. This was opposed by Kernodle & Carlton (1992) who found that the error correction cues group (KP) had the strongest learning effect compared to KR athletes when learning to throw a ball with the non dominant hand (p < 0.05). This suggests that combining KP with feedback specific to the task enhances skill acquisition more so than a form KR feedback. The timing of when feedback is administered was explored by Swinnen et al., (1990). Participants were given KR feedback instantaneously after task completion or after an eight second delay. After evaluation on several retention tasks, the investigation found that feedback given instantly after performance degraded learning. This could have been due to the feedback not being specific to the activity, and also the subjects did not have time to self reflect on certain aspects of the performance.

As previously stated, evidence exists that KR alone, and when combined with KP enhances performance (Viitasalo et al., 2001). It was reported in the investigation that KR alone improved target shooting outcome in novice shooters, which contrasts work by Amorose & Smith (2003) stating that less skilled performers may need more task specific KP feedback, as opposed to KR, as they do not have the necessary knowledge in order to perform effectively. However the findings of the investigation discuss that the skill of running target shooting is a complex skill and that KR alone is not the only way to facilitate learning.

According to Magill (1994) and Magill et al., (1991), performers do not benefit from feedback anymore than practicing the skill itself. In four experiments carried out by Magill et al., (1991), requiring sequential LED’s to be hit with a small bat upon illuminating, participants were administered verbal KR over different speeds of lighting. Results of all four experiments consistently showed that KR was not essential in learning the skill (p > 0.05), stating that the task itself provided the feedback necessary to perform the skill well, in a subconscious manner. This could have been due to the LED’s lighting up in order form left to right, so the participants were awaiting the same lighting sequence repeatedly, irrespective that the speed of illumination changed.

  • Overall, it appears that although KP and KR serve specific and differential functions within the learning process, both types of feedback adhere to the same principles in the way they affect the learning of motor skills (Wulf & Shea, 2004).
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