Positive feedback praising good performance does not alter the learning of an intrinsically motivating task in 10-year-old children
Keywords:motor learning, intrinsic motivation, enjoyment, competence, expectancies, infancy, balance
Several studies have provided evidence for the importance of motivation in motor learning. The present study investigates whether providing positive feedback as statements praising good performance would benefit children’s motor learning when compared to a no-praise condition. Thirty 10-year-old children divided into two groups—positive feedback (PF) and control—learned to ride a pedalo over a seven-meter distance in the shortest time possible. Participants performed 20 practice trials and received feedback on their movement time following each trial. However, only the PF group received feedback acknowledging good performance after each trial block. After 24 hours, both groups performed learning tests without any feedback. Questionnaires (Intrinsic Motivation Inventory) were applied to measure participants’ motivational levels. The results show substantial improvements in performance during practice and high levels of intrinsic motivation, sustained across days, in both groups. Differences between groups in motivation, performance, and learning were not found. These results demonstrate that riding a pedalo in the shortest time possible constitutes an intrinsically motivating task in children, whose learning is not altered by the provision of positive feedback statements acknowledging good performance, possibly by a motivational ceiling effect. The findings indicate that task-inherent motivational characteristics can moderate positive feedback learning effects in children. Future studies could measure other motivational constructs, such as learner’s persistence in practicing the task, or could include post-failure measures that may reveal differences in children’s capacity to cope with errors. Differences between groups would demonstrate potential benefits of providing positive feedback praising performance in children that were not captured in the present experiment, even on the learning of inherently motivating tasks.
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