Norm-referenced, Criterion-referenced, and Self-referenced Feedback: Their Effects on Motivation and Achievement

Project Number
OER 08/12 NYY

Project Duration
July 2012 - March 2017


Assessment feedback has a significant impact on students' motivation and achievement because it serves as a basis for self-evaluation of ability and self-regulation of motivation and behaviors in learning processes, further affecting achievement. One kind of feedback that received heated debate in the last few decades is norm-referenced feedback. Norm-referenced feedback refers to information provided on whether the assessment taker performs better or worse compared to other assessment takers. Due to most high-stake standardized assessments are norm-referencing, norm-referenced feedback is popular in educational practices. This is particularly salient in some Asian countries with highly completive education systems (e.g. Singapore). Such social comparison information from norm-referenced feedback may help individuals obtain accurate information about their own ability with reference to others. However, research also showed that norm-referenced feedback can be detrimental to students' motivation. Therefore, criterion-referenced feedback (information on comparing student achievement with a learning target or standard) and self-referenced feedback (i.e. information on improvement or decline by comparing student achievement with his or her own past achievement) have been recommended in the assessment reform. However, do criterion-referenced feedback and self-referenced feedback have desirable effects on motivation and achievement? Most importantly, if norm-referenced information is essential and useful and cannot be excluded in educational practices, how to minimize it is maladaptive effects in students motivation? Research on these issues is rather scarce if not void. Therefore, the purposes of the proposed project are: 1) to examine the effects of different types of feedback (i.e. norm-referenced, criterion-referenced, self-referenced) on motivation and achievement 2) to examine how individual differences in self-perception (e.g. perceived competence) moderates the effects of feedback on motivation and achievement, thus the maladaptive motivational effects can be reduced by the moderator 3) to examine if criterion-referenced or/and self-referenced feedback moderates the maladaptive effects of norm-referenced feedback on motivation and assessment (i.e. the effects of the different combinations of three types of feedback on motivation and achievement). This project will collaborate with Professor Andrew Elliot at the University of Rochester. The research is pushing knowledge frontier on the use of assessment feedback by conducting evidence -based research in two aspects. First, this project has the potential to be internationally competitive in advancing understanding of the newly achievement goal theory by conducting experiments in assessment feedback context. Second, it will provide invaluable information for educational practitioners on how to make feedback effective in promoting learning.

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