“How do you think you played?”

The use of verbal feedback is a common practice in instrumental lessons.

Prior research led to the belief for optimal learning to occur there should be feedback, and that the feedback should be immediate and frequent. However, these studies did not include transfer and retention of the student, so the effect of feedback was measured in an immediate sense of performance improvement during the lesson observed, and not through subsequent followup over several weeks.

Newer studies include the use of frequency and timing of feedback on learning. It has been shown that reduced feedback frequency enhanced learning. Timing of feedback was observed. Typically, feedback is given after the completion of a task, however, sometimes it can be provided during a task. It was found that feedback during a task (concurrent feedback) is detrimental to learning. Further, it was shown that giving feedback immediately after a task is less effective for learning than if that feedback is delayed. Delaying the feedback allows the learner to intrinsically evaluate the task before the teacher feedback is given.

Feedback frequency and timing has been termed the “guidance hypothesis”. This hypothesis assumes that the learner will improve with the guidance provided by the teacher. However, feedback also has negative effects such as the student becoming overly dependent on it, and subsequently by-passing their own intrinsic feedback. In this scenario, learners fail to develop their own error detection and correction techniques.

The effect of feedback frequency is also related to the complexity of the skill under development. Simple skills require reduced feedback, whereas complex skills benefit from slightly more feedback.

Implications for music teaching are that students may benefit from a teaching strategy using reduced and delayed feedback. Encouraging the student to reflect on their own playing through intrinsic feedback can also enhance learning.
The use of too much immediate feedback may hamper student progress in 2 ways. Firstly, the process of performance is disrupted, and secondly, the student does not learn to judge their own performance if they become overly reliant on external feedback for their progress.

Wulf, G., & Mornell, A. (2008). Insights about practice from the perspective of motor learning. Music Performance Research, 2, 26.

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