How does feedback influence Creativity? Blog 4

Throughout the weeks to follow I will discuss numerous different aspects that influence individualism within the education system. Two weeks ago, I briefly analysed one aspect of this topic, by discussing how conformity distills creativity. For this week’s blog, I will use psychological principles to argue that the negative correlation between individual motivation and creativity can be improved through the feedback teachers provide their students.

Throughout my blog two weeks ago, I used the description proposed by Robinson (2007) as a definition for creativity: ‘the process of having original ideas’. Critical thinking skills are arguably needed for such behaviour to occur, as the generation of new ideas relies upon problem-solving, reasoning and higher order thinking skills (McPeck, 1981, as cited by Smith, 2002). Davey, Jubb and Cameron (1996) gave a group of students either false negative or positive feedback on a problem-solving task. Those who received the negative feedback demonstrated significantly lower confidence rates in future tasks and greater levels of anxiety and worry. This suggests that the feedback a teacher provides has a huge impact on performance level. The Intrinsic Motivation Principle suggests if a learner becomes overly concerned with extrinsic motivators (such as positive feedback), they are more likely to follow the ideas of others, than think creatively in applying a novel answer to the problem (Amabile, 1996). In other words, students are more likely to conform to the ideas of others to receive positive reinforcement, than risk presenting a new idea that is positively punished. There is a negative correlation between the effect critical feedback has on extrinsic motivation and creativity levels (Amabile, 1985). However, this principle also suggests that critical feedback from a teacher can be conducive of creativity, if intrinsic (internal) motivation is particularly high (more on this in a minute).

Ofsted (2012) reported that ‘gifted’ children were not given the chance to progress and achieve their full potential in physical education. Regardless of whether feedback was positive or negative, they suggested students were held back because Primary teachers either lacked the necessary further knowledge, or held expectations that their students would not outperform their own abilities. The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy suggests negative comments become internalized by a student, and eventually results in them acting in accordance with this lowered opinion of their ability (Merton, 1948).Therefore not only are students potentially internalizing this critical feedback, resulting in motivational declines, but they could also be listening to inaccurate comments…. it is an interesting thought, to think all feedback is in fact built upon subjective internalized beliefs. A teacher was a student once!

However, research has found students with an internal locus of control are not influenced in the same way by such negative feedback (wolfe, 2011). They believe the outcome of their performance is determined by their own actions and negative feedback will not cause future work to decline or change. A meta-analysis conducted by Kluger and DeNisi (1996) found the effectiveness of feedback in altering performance reduced on a continuum scale, the more an individual began to attribute the outcome of their behaviour to themselves, rather than to the task. One of the key influential factors ensuring this was the level of intrinsic motivation a student had. Amabile (1994) went one step further, in finding that for adults with such intrinsic motivational drive, performance would actually improve with critical feedback. They were determined to outperform the expectations others held. (I sometimes wish I could think a little more like this!) It could be implied therefore that such comments were acting as a negative reinforcer, in that behaviour was motivated by escaping the unpleasant consequence.

This raises the question of whether our education system is in fact encouraging intrinsic motivation through reinforcement, to improve creativity and therefore a sense of individualism. Or… if fulfilling expectation, the need for conformity and extrinsic motivation are preventing novel solutions from being found?

Just thought i’d end with an image highlighting the benefits of new ideas… stay motivated!


2 thoughts on “How does feedback influence Creativity? Blog 4

  1. psu210

    Your blog is really interesting and got me thinking. My opinion on your questions at the end of your blog is that our current system is not reinforcing internal intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation can only be achieved when the student is really interested in the task independently of the actual outcome. Students engage in the task with more impulse which leads to improvement in skills and capabilities. Intrinsically motivated persons attribute their educational results to their own abilities. You propose that when receiving critical feedback they in fact get more motivated. I disagree because I think that handling feedback also depends on how feedback is perceived: either as an attack on the person or just referring to the result. If feedback is given properly, meaning not attacking the other person but constructive aiming at the performance, then still it also depends in my opinion on the self-esteem of the person and whether the feedback is attributed internally or externally. Ilgen and Davis (2000) state that giving especially negative or critical feedback could lower self-efficacy and thereby reducing future performance rather than promoting it. The affected person could even generalize it to other tasks or to its self-concept. However, Butler et al. (1986) state that giving no feedback does not encourage intrinsic motivation. Deci (1972) has shown how external rewards affect intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation to perform an activity thereafter decreased when receiving contingent monetary payments, threats of punishment for inefficient performance or negative feedback about the performance. This shows how intrinsic motivation can be reduced and that external rewards do not improve intrinsic motivation but rather reduce it.

    Finally, intrinsic motivation leads to more creativity because the person engages more with the task and is interested in the task. Teachers should try to introduce topics in a more interactive and creative way. Thus the students can easier develop intrinsic motivation in the tasks. Especially co-operative groups can lead to children providing more creative ideas. Feedback should be given carefully and also according to the self-scheme of the student. The teacher, in my opinion, needs to evaluate how he phrases his feedback, especially when the person is sensitive and has a low self-esteem.

    1. jensenm14

      I found your blog to be a really interesting read! I find myself tending to agree with your points regarding feedback functioning as a behavior modifying consequence which can often have an effect on the way in which the student views themself as well as potentially affecting their levels of intrinsic motivation. According to MacDonald (1991), written teacher feedback:
      1) is often superficially based on surface errors or sometimes contradictory
      2) is sometimes confusing to students; students often misunderstand the feedback
      3) often goes unread by students or is not fully taken into account
      4) is often not as important to the students as the overall letter grade they are receiving.

      Given these findings, I think it raises the question of if written feedback is a useful and effective tool in education, and if not, is it worth the potential detriments to intrinsic motivation and students’ self esteem?


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