Faded Feedback – Just a Fad?

Topic(s): feedback, training

Topic: Feedback, Training
Publication: Human Performance
Article: Faded versus increasing feedback, task variability trajectories, and transfer of training.
Author: J.S. Goodman, R.E. Wood
Featured by: Benjamin Granger

In training situations, immediate, specific, and frequent feedback to the learner is often prescribed  by the experts. However, there is evidence that this “high guidance” feedback may ultimately impair long-term transfer (the ability to transfer knowledge gained in training to the  workplace) and individual performance on the job. One solution that has been presented in the literature to address this issue is known as faded  feedback. Faded feedback involves high-level guidance at first, with a gradual reduction in feedback and guidance as trainees move through the training course.

However, as pointed out by Goodman and Wood (2009), there is very little empirical support for faded feedback (though it seems intuitively appealing). To test the effectiveness of fading feedback over the course of a training program, as well as a variant of faded feedback (e.g., gradually increasing feedback and guidance over time – opposite of faded feedback), Goodman and Wood had 125 undergraduate students complete an 18 trial training course.

Interestingly, despite the intuitive appeal of faded feedback, Goodman and Wood’s findings suggest that this feedback method did not lead to better learning or improved transfer of training relative to the reverse (gradually increasing feedback over the course of training).

Their results suggest that faded feedback led trainees to become “set in their ways.” In other words, when trainees receive high levels of feedback early on, they tend to continue to perform in ways  consistent with the feedback throughout the training course (even after feedback is reduced). Ok, but  isn’t this a good thing?

Not exactly. This may prevent trainees from exploring new ways of performing tasks/solving problems, which can ultimately lead to poor transfer of training. This was not the case for those trainees who received gradually increasing feedback, however. These trainees continued to explore new ways of performing tasks over the course of training.

Overall, Goodman and Wood’s findings remind us of the importance of considering feedback in training. Although feedback is a vital element of an effective training program, the new fad of fading feedback should be considered cautiously.

Goodman, J. S., & Wood, R. E. (2009). Faded versus increasing feedback, task variability trajectories, and transfer of training. Human Performance, 22, 64-85.