Negative Feedback is Important

Posted February 12, 2011

by Lensyl Urbano

For success to occur, many things must go right: The person must be skilled, apply effort, and perhaps be a bit lucky. For failure to occur, the lack of any one of these components is sufficient. Because of this, even if people receive feedback that points to a lack of skill, they may attribute it to some other factor.
– Kruger and Dunning (1999): Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments (pdf)

If we’re not skilled at something then only practice and learning can remedy the situation. But, according to Kruger and Dunning (1999), human nature tends to try to blame other things, like luck, instead of our own lack of skill when things go wrong. Interestingly, we’re even resistant to thinking that our lack of skill is the problem, even when we’re given that negative feedback.

So an essential skill for the student is to learn how to take criticism constructively. Self-awareness, metacognition, and the ability to be honest with oneself are important. Let this be a warning:

“One of the ways people gain insight into their own competence is by comparing themselves with others.” “Incompetent individuals fail to gain insight into their own incompetence by observing the behavior of other people.”
Kruger and Dunning (1999)

P.S. Note that “incompetent” is used here to express a level of knowledge and skill that can be improved on to become “competent”. Incompetence is not a fixed quality, unless you let it be.

P.P.S. This is another reason why it’s important that students share their work with one another and the class. The best work tends to ratchet up the standards and expectations.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2011. Negative Feedback is Important, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

2 Responses to “Negative Feedback is Important”

  1. Arjen Vreugdenhil

    Good afternoon,

    Looking for images to use in my physics lecture today I encountered your website. It looks great, but I did see an incorrect statement; I thought I’d let you know.

    Your site state that a magnetic field is produced by a changing electric field, as in the case of a current flowing through a wire.

    The first statement is true (Maxwell’s law says that a changing electric field induces magnetic field), although it is the least familiar of the basic rules of electricity and magnetism. However, a current flowing through a wire is *not* a changing electric field. Based on the electric field surrounding a wire it is impossible to determine whether there is current or not. (Most likely, there is no electric field, as the wire is overall electrically neutral.) The basic rule is therefore that (1) currents make a magnetic field (Ampere’s Law) and (2) changing electric fields make a magnetic field (Maxwell’s Law). You cannot derive the one from the other, expect in combination with all laws of electromagnetism and the principle of relativity.

  2. Lensyl Urbano

    Thanks very much for the comment. I presume you’re referring to this post.

    I’ve endeavored to correct, but I’ve put a link to your comment above as a more complete explanation.

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