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Research Blog

(Background for Literature Review)

Literature Review

The motivation for the literature review was to provide background understanding for this action research and was

driven by the primary research question: How does self-reflection affect student engagement and motivation for future learning? Early research explored effective feedback strategies with upper elementary students. Relevant articles highlighted how feedback can help students self-regulate their learning by motivating them to choose topics and concepts for restudy, practice, and mastery (Van Loon & Roebers, 2017). This research led to questions about students abilities’ to self-evaluate and self-reflect. A second round of research revealed that metacognitive strategies may increase students abilities to accurately assess their academic skills and learn from self-assessments (Grünke, Sperling & Burke, 2017; Wilson & Conyers, 2014; Zubrycki, 2015). A third round of research focused on ways to help students engage in effective self-reflection.


Timing of Feedback     

While many agree that immediate feedback leads to high levels of self-correction, researchers debate how the

timing and facilitation of feedback affects long-term knowledge retention and motivation for future learning. Fyfe and Rittle-Johnson (2016) studied the effects of feedback on immediate and delayed performance of mathematical skills with second and third grade students. Results of the study showed that immediate feedback resulted in the highest performance during the practice phase of learning. Practice with no feedback correlated with the highest levels of mastery (students scoring 100%) on the one-week knowledge retention test (Fyfe & Rittle-Johnson, 2016).


These finding suggest that while immediate feedback may increase initial performance, practice without feedback

may have a longer lasting effect on learning. In addition, summative feedback (feedback after all practice problems were complete) had an insignificant effect on performance on both the post-test and the one-week knowledge retention test. The findings imply that the most effective feedback during practice for student learning and knowledge retention is either immediate or no feedback at all.  Contrastingly, in a study exploring strategies-based feedback with students in Columbia, Sisquiarco, Rojas and Abad (2018) found that summative feedback on student performance did have a positive effect on both students’ motivation and their performance on academic tasks.

The study by Fyfe and Rittle-Johnson (2016) included several limitations. First, fourty five percent of students

showed mastery (100%) on all tests and may not have needed feedback to help them master the mathematical concepts presented. Second, the feedback offered in this study was restricted to correct or incorrect validation without comments about strategies used or correct conceptual understanding. Finally, students were not encouraged to revise their work with the correct answer or defend their reasoning of the mathematical concepts (Fyfe & Rittle-Johnson, 2016). Further research is needed to examine how feedback, with time for revision of mathematical thinking, may affect performance on the one-week knowledge retention test.


Fyfe and Rittle-Johnson (2016) raised complicated questions about which students benefit from feedback during

practice and which students benefit from practice without feedback. The research implies that students who already have a basic understanding of concepts would benefit from practice without feedback. This practice can lead to higher long-term  knowledge retention than practice with immediate feedback. Other students, who do not have background knowledge of concepts, may benefit from immediate feedback during practice (Fyfe & Rittle-Johnson, 2016). These findings raise questions about the importance of pre-assessing students’ understanding of academic concepts prior to guided and independent practice of the concepts.


Peer Feedback     

Peer feedback enhances learning for both the student providing feedback and the student receiving feedback

(Sackstein, 2017). Sackstein suggests that if all students were empowered to give meaningful feedback to each other, less students would be waiting for teacher direction and more students would be taking responsibility for their own learning by demonstrating self-advocacy. Through years of teaching experience, Sackstein discovered that student-to-student feedback is received more openly and positively than teacher-to-student feedback. Sackstein encourages teachers to shift their mentality from the teacher as the expert to a room full of experts of different things, with students as the experts, facilitators and leaders. Sackstein warns that without clear expectations and teacher follow-through, peer feedback may breakdown. However, with these teacher supports, student may be able to reach higher levels of learning and mastery (Sackstein, 2017).


Sackstein’s (2017) warning echoes the research findings that students need explicit instruction of feedback

expectations (Arbel et al., 2018; Philippakos & MacArthur, 2016; Sisquiarco, Rojas & Abad, 2018; Wilson & Conyers, 2014). While Sackstein insists on clear expectations, he does not offer clear instruction on which expectations need to be taught explicitly to ensure that peer feedback is most valuable for all learners. In contrast, Sisquiarco, Rojas and Abad (2018) provide clear expectations of which rubrics and metacognitive strategies need to be implemented to ensure that feedback is accessible and meaningful to all learners.


In a specific example of Sackstein larger suggestions, Philippakos and MacArthur (2016) studied how giving

feedback (reviewing peers’ work) affects the quality of the reviewers’ own writing. Compared to the research above which focused on the effects of receiving feedback, the researchers focused on the positive effects of giving feedback. Philippakos and MacArthur (2016) were motivated to explore this topic because of the assumption that while professional authors spend extensive time revising their writing, elementary students spend little time or effort revising their work. The researchers hoped that this study would highlight strategies to increase revision skills with fourth and fifth grade students. Study results revealed that the experience of evaluating peers’ work and explaining feedback to peers correlated with the peer reviewers writing higher quality essays even though they did not receive any feedback on their own writing (Philippakos & MacArthur, 2016).


These findings support the argument that a key component of effective feedback is throroughly understanding

evaluation tools (rubrics) and expectations (Sisquiarco, Rojas & Abad, 2018; Wilson & Conyers, 2014). By reviewing peer work with the same feedback tools that teachers are using for grading, peer reviewers develop a deeper understanding of expectations for their own work. Philippakos and MacArthur (2016) agree with Sisquiarco, Rojas and Abad (2018) that learning evaluation criteria has a positive effect on both the accuracy of self-assessment and overall performance on future work.


Self-Assessment As Part of Daily Learning

Self-reflection, as part of daily learning, increases motivation for future learning (Grünke, Sperling & Burke, 2017;

Zubrycki, 2015). Zubrzycki (2015) reported on schools where self-assessment is part of students’ daily learning. The author defines self-assessment as a process in which students judge their progress toward a learning goal and identify their next steps. Zubrycki (2015) explains that self-assessment helps students take more ownership of their learning by understanding what goal they are working towards, what their current performance is, and what action steps they need to take to achieve the goal. By ensuring that goal statements are student friendly (easy for students to comprehend) and by providing direct instruction on how to use scoring rubrics, teachers can help student assess their own growth (Zubrycki, 2015).

For the self-assessment to be effective, students may also need direct instruction on how to complete reflection

activities and opportunities to revise their work or continue their learning directly after self-assessments (Zubrycki, 2015). Providing instruction on how to answer reflection questions is in line with the suggestions from Philippakos and MacArthur (2016) about explicit instruction of evaluation criteria. A useful extension for further research would be to examine much time must be spent on explicit instruction of self-evaluation tools in order for participants to use these tools effectively.


In a small but thought provoking research study about self-assessment, Grünke, Sperling, and Burke (2017)

explored the effects of a multi-faceted intervention program with 5th grade students. The intervention involved a performance feedback system which included explicit timing, self-scoring, positive feedback, displaying high scores, and using a chart to illustrate the learning process.  Students were identified for this study based on low performance (compared to peers) on a grade level writing assessment. The authors predicted that implementation of this intervention program would increase the length and quality of the students’ creative writing. Study results imply that the performance feedback system was successful in helping students to increase their motivation for. Data analysis did not identify which component of the intervention had the greatest effect on the positive outcomes, however, the combined effect did increase both the length and quality of students’ work. The study suggests that self-evaluation does have a positive correlation with motivation when combined with other intervention components (Grünke, Sperling & Burke, 2017).


Unfortunately, Grünke, Sperling and Burke (2017) found that the positive effects did not last over time. Follow up

assessments when the intervention system was no longer implemented showed a significant drop in performance. This finding encourages further exploration of self-regulation/self-evaluations systems that can be easily replicated and repeated after an action research study is completed so that the positive effects are maintained. The conclusions of this study should be interpreted with caution due to the limit sample size.  


Self-Assessment With Metacognitive Strategies

Explicit instruction of metacognitive skills has a positive effect on students’ ownership of their learning (Wilson &

Conyers, 2014). Students with metacognitive strategies (students with the ability to monitor their own thinking and learning), ask several key questions as they learn new content or develop deeper understanding. For example, students may ask, “Can I apply this new knowledge or skill in other subject areas or situations?” (Wilson & Conyers, 2014). Wilson and Conyers predict that with the deeper levels of thinking required by the Common Core State Standards, researchers and educators may see an increase in metacognitive skill development throughout new curricula. Their research suggests that teachers incorporate lessons about the neuroplasticity of the brain and students’ abilities to change their brain as they learn new information and skills. Students must believe that they can change their brain and adjust their thinking as they work to meet their goals (Wilson & Conyers, 2014).


In a study related to Wilson and Conyers’ (2014) suggestions,  Sisquiarco, Rojas, and Abad (2018) found that feed

back, which included recommendations for cognitive and metacognitive strategies, had a positive impact on the oral presentations and confidence of sixth grade students. Data analysis showed that the strategies-based feedback correlated with a significant increase in students’ abilities to both self-evaluate and self-monitor their performance. This analysis illustrates that strategies-based feedback helped students to identify the progress they made, and to notice effective strategies that they implemented to achieve this progress. By including both cognitive and metacognitive strategies as integral parts of the feedback, the researchers provided the sixth grade students with steps and actions they could follow as their worked toward their goals (Sisquiarco, Rojas, & Abad, 2018).


Feedback and Self-Assessment as a Motivator for Future Learning

In a study closely related to the primary research question, “How does feedback and self-reflection affect student

engagement and motivation for future learning?”, Van Loon and Roebers (2017) studied the effect of feedback on students’ self-evaluations of test performance and motivation for further study. After a concept test, fourth and sixth grade students were asked to self-evaluate their performance and select concepts for future study. Students were randomly assigned to a feedback group where they either received feedback for each specific test question, or they received feedback on each test question in addition to feedback helping them to separate the three main ideas included in the test. After receiving feedback, students again self-evaluated their performance and chose concepts for restudy (Van Loon & Roebers, 2017).


Van Loon and Roebers (2017) discovered that both fourth and sixth grade students were overconfident when

self-scoring their performance prior to receiving feedback. After receiving feedback, students’ self-evaluations of test performance were more accurate. While Van Loon and Roebers (2017) emphasized and valued the accuracy of self-evaluation, Zubrycki (2015) implied that the accuracy of self-assessment might be less important than the process of reflection and revision for student learning.


Study results showed that fourth graders, before receiving feedback, were less likely to choose incorrect answers

on the test for further study. However, after receiving feedback, there was no difference between fourth and sixth grade students in chosen questions for restudy (Van Loon & Roebers, 2017). These results imply that fourth grade students do not have the skills to regulate their own learning and choose concepts for restudy without feedback. This finding relates closely to the study by Arbel et al. (2018) who found that younger students may not have the exectutive functioning skills necessary to regulate their own learning. However, with feedback, fourth grade students are equally as effective as sixth grade students in self-regulating their learning (Van Loon & Robers, 2017). These results imply that feedback helps students with self-regulation and raises questions about how feedback affects the development of executive functioning skills in young learners.



A common theme throughout many of the articles is the importance of explicit instruction on using rubrics and

reflection tools. This instruction is a necessary step that allows students to understand and learn from feedback (Arbel et al., 2018; Philippakos & MacArthur, 2016; Sackstein, 2017; Sisquiarco, Rojas & Abad, 2018; Wilson & Conyers, 2014; Zubrycki, 2015). The literature review implies that teachers also need provide students with formal instruction on how to provide and learn from peer feedback (Philippakos & MacArthur, 2016; Zubrycki, 2015). In addition, teachers need to offer students regular opportunities to assess their skills and reflect on their learning. This reflection should include specific metacognitive strategies that will help students think about their progress (Wilson & Conyers, 2014). After self-assessing, students benefit from an opportunity to revise their work, learn from mistakes, and set individualized learning goals. Follow up assessments and reflections highlight the positive long-term impacts of this effective feedback.


Further research is needed to identify what type of feedback is most effective for fourth grade learners across

different content areas. Van Loon and Roebers (2017) found that there was no significant correlation between feedback type (specific test item feedback or item feedback and idea unit feedback) and students’ self-evaluation of performance or motivation for further study (Van Loon & Roebers, 2017). For some students, peer reviewing may be the most effective type of feedback (Philippakos & MacArthur, 2016). For other students, feedback as part of a multi-faceted intervention program may be most effective (Grünke, Sperling & Burke, 2017). Some student may benefit from self-assessment using a scoring rubric which includes development of metacognitive skills (Sisquiarco, Rojas, & Abad, 2018). Further action research with fourth grade learners is necessary to discover what specific types of feedback help students self-assess their learning and motivates them to choose topics and concepts for restudy, practice and mastery.



Arbel, Y., Mccarty, K. N., Goldman, M., Donchin, E., & Brumback, T. (2018). Developmental changes in the feedback related

negativity from 8 to 14 years. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 132, 331-337. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2018.01.004


Fyfe, E. R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2016). Mathematics practice without feedback: A desirable difficulty in a classroom

setting. Instructional Science, 45(2), 177-194. doi:10.1007/s11251-016-9401-1


Grünke, M., Sperling, M., & Burke, M. D. (2017). The impact of explicit timing, immediate feedback, and positive

reinforcement on the writing outcomes of academically and behaviorally struggling fifth-grade students. Insights into Learning Disabilities, 14(2), 135-153.


Logan, J. (2014). School leadership through action research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.


Philippakos, Z. A., & Macarthur, C. A. (2016). The effects of giving feedback on the persuasive writing of fourth- and fifth-

grade students. Reading Research Quarterly, 51(4), 419-433. doi:10.1002/rrq.149


Sackstein, S. (2017). Peer feedback in the classroom: Empowering students to be the experts. Alexandria, VA, USA: ASCD.


Sisquiarco, A., Rojas, S. S., & Abad, J. V. (2018). Influence of strategies-based feedback in students’ oral performance.

HOW, 25(1), 93-113. doi:10.19183/how.25.1.402


Van Loon, M. H., & Roebers, C. M. (2017). Effects of feedback on self-evaluations and self-regulation in elementary school.

Applied Cognitive Psychology, 31(5), 508-519. doi:10.1002/acp.3347


Wilson, D., & Conyers, M. (2014, October). The boss of my brain. Educational Leadership, 72(2). Retrieved November 6,

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Zubrycki, J. (2015, November 11). Putting students in charge of their own learning. Education Week, 35(12). Retrieved

November 6, 2018 from learning.html

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