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How to Give Effective Feedback

Mohan is a family physician and a Postgraduate Associate Dean working in the UK. He has a keen interest in self-regulated learning.

How to give Effective Feedback

How to give Effective Feedback


Effective Feedback helps to improve the poor performer to competence. It also helps in moving the competent to excellence.

Giving and Receiving Feedback

We have all, at many points in our life, given or received feedback. Feedback has become integral to educational processes, evaluatory exercises and social interactions. We all crave for positive feedback and may get upset by the negative. Effective feedback is essential for growth.

Good feedback is worth its weight in gold. Learners or employees who receive effective feedback show clear improvements in their performance. Feedback is not just reserved for improving the poor performer to competence. It is also essential to move the competent to excellence.

The term 'Effective Feedback' is used to indicate feedback that is valued and valuable.

While we all give feedback, perhaps few of us have reflected on the process itself:

  • Is the feedback we are giving effective?
  • Does it serve the purpose we intend it to?
  • Is it given in a way that the recipient benefits from it?
  • What are our strengths in giving feedback?
  • Are there ways of improving our feedback?

Can we distinguish between advice, evaluation and feedback?


Activity #1

A preliminary pause for reflection:

  • What activities are you involved in where your role involves giving feedback?
  • Do you know the key principles of giving feedback?
  • What are your strengths in giving feedback?
  • What are your areas of development?
  • How do you evaluate your feedback currently?

Scope of this Article

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In this article, we will look at the attributes of effective feedback and reflect on the skills required to give it. We will look at how, when and what feedback to give and to what end. We will discuss the optimum parameters of good feedback and how to hone our own skills in giving this.

Reflecting on feedback will help us to assimilate the principles and apply it in our daily life. whether it is giving feedback to our children, our friends, our learners or work colleagues - this will help us to think on our own strengths and development needs in giving feedback.

Giving effective feedback is not easy. It needs patience, preparation and participation. We will work step by step through the criteria for giving effective feedback. This way we will be able to think about the real difficulties in giving feedback and how to overcome them through preparation and practice.



What is not Feedback?

Feedback may be mistaken for advice, simple evaluation, praise or condemnation. While there is some overlap in these, none of these are the same as feedback.


"You were very good on stage!" - Praise

" Your easy manner, confident dialogue delivery and ability to ad-lib were all very good" - Feedback


"You were awful!" - Condemnation

" Your nervous movements, lack of projection, mumbling of dialogue - all will need work! - Feedback


" You got 70% in your test" - Evaluation

" You've got 70% in your test. The other 30% was missed mostly in questions around Geometry. Revising these would help." - Feedback


"You have to do better. work harder." - Advice

" Maybe we should allocate an hour each day for looking at Geometry. We can break the subject down and look for which areas you are already confident at and which may be giving you some trouble. And then we can work on those" - Feedback


What is Feedback?

There are many definitions of the word feedback. Each vary in various contexts.

The word is used in science and technology as the return of a portion of the output of a process or system to its input, in order to maintain performance or to control the system.

In the teaching context, we describe feedback as the return of information about the result of a process or activity; an evaluative response.

All biological systems are modulated, controlled and changed by the product, output or the response of their processes. This is integral to human body from simple hunger/satiety responses to hormone regulation. All life exists and self regulates due to well developed internal feedback mechanisms.

Feedback in integral to any student/teacher relationships. We all know how some feedback is valued, well received and used to improve performance. On the other hand some feedback may not hit home and may be poorly received or ignored.

Not giving feedback may either give a false sense of security or imply a disengaged teacher. Both Teacher and student may create assumptions of competence and lack of trust.

Good learners value feedback. However self -regulated they are, there will be blind spots to their development that need addressing. Feedback from someone who functions as a role-model, as a more experienced individual, can be very valuable.

Feedback is an essential roadmap to Excellence

Feedback is an essential roadmap to Excellence


Effective Feedback...

  • Promotes the learner journey to excellence and achievements
  • Encourages reflection, self regulation and ownership of learning
  • Increases self-esteem, self-confidence and motivation in a learner
  • Enhances the one to one relationship between Teacher and Learner
  • Enables the teacher to modify and realign teaching contents and method
  • Helps develop skills of peer review and self assessment

Why Give Feedback?

Of all the aspects of a teacher/ learner relationship, feedback has been proven to be the one exercise that consistently improves achievement and enhances the Teacher/Learner relationship.

Bellon et al1 have stated that 'academic feedback is more strongly and consistently related to achievement than any other teaching behaviour...this relationship is consistent regardless of grade, socioeconomi