Providing Student Feedback
Providing regular feedback to the student regarding his or her work with you is the most powerful teaching tool you have. It is also the area most commonly cited as lacking when students and residents evaluate medical faculty.
Quite simply, feedback is the sharing of information about the student's performance. Positive feedback serves to sustain behavior that is appropriate and effective. Negative or corrective feedback serves to change behavior that is inappropriate or ineffective. Thus, the student should receive a mixture of positive and corrective feedback. The feedback should be specific enough that the student understands which behaviors are appropriate and which ones need to be changed. General comments such as "you're doing a really super job!" may be pleasant to give, but do little in the way of teaching. Feedback is most meaningful when it is based on solid data obtained while observing or interacting with the student.
This teaching skill quickly becomes easier with deliberate practice. An experienced preceptor who has worked on developing this skill can incorporate feedback comfortably and quickly into regular interactions with a student.
Feedback is giving specific information about a person's current behavior in order to help him/her either continue the behavior or modify the behavior.
- Provides a basis for maintaining or improving performance
- Provides a forum for assessing need and planning additional experiences
Timing and Setting
- Most useful immediately following the experience
- Process established during orientation
- Brief, in-route encounters
Characteristics of Effective Feedback
- It is specific and performance based.
- It is descriptive, not labeling.
- It focuses on the behavior, not the learner.
- It is based on observations, repeated if possible.
- It begins with "I" statements.
- It balances negative and positive comments.
- It is well-timed.
- It is anchored to common goals (for example, the learners learning or quality patient care).
- It provides for two-way communication, soliciting, and considering the receivers input.
- It is brief. (Be alert to signs of resistance).
- It is based on trust, honesty, and concern.
- It is private, particularly if it is negative.
- It is part of your regular teaching process, not an exception to the norm.
- It provides for follow-up.
Guidelines for Giving Constructive Feedback
- All comments should be based upon observable behavior and not assumed motives or intents.
- Positive comments should be made first in order to give the student confidence and gain his/her attention.
- Language should be descriptive of specific behaviors rather than general comments indicating value judgments.
- Feedback should emphasize the sharing of information. There should be opportunities for both parties to contribute.
- Feedback should not be so detailed and broad so as to "overload" the student.
- Feedback should deal with the behaviors the student can control and change.
- Feedback requires the ability to tolerate a feeling of discomfort.