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Academic and Student Services

The Feedback Loop

The Feedback Loop is a resource from the Office of Educational Improvement within the Department of Academic Affairs. Each month we identify a resource on the topic of feedback of interest to our teaching faculty.

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November 2018: Faculty Behavior: Helping Students Develop an Action Plan

Communicating strengths and weaknesses in a student’s performance is only part of the feedback process. Good feedback includes assisting the learner in identifying next steps and developing an action plan to address areas for improvement.

Tips for Helping Develop an Action Plan

  • Help learners identify new approaches to an identified problem.
  • Provide guidance to learners who understand they need to make a change but don’t know how to do so. For example, when a student understands they need to communicate differently but don’t know what that means from an action standpoint.
  • Help learners overcome barriers to meeting their change goals, such as how to avoid being overwhelmed by their own emotions when using empathy with patients.

1. Thomas, J.D., and Arnold, R,M. (2011). Giving feedback. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(2): 233-239. For assistance in retrieving the full article, please contact MCW Libraries ILLiad system to request a copy.

September 2018: Faculty Behavior: Elicit Learner's Thoughts and Feelings

Feedback should be given when the learner is able to process it. At times, that will mean the feedback giver needs to attend to the thoughts and emotions the learner is experiencing prior to, and even after, the feedback is given.

Tips for Attending to Emotions

  • Conduct a debrief regarding the emotional aspects of an encounter prior to giving feedback. Ask the learner how they felt in the encounter or offer an observation about emotions you witnessed.
  • Role model appropriate emotion handling skills.
  • Give the learner the time and space they need to handle their emotions so they can learn from the feedback when it is given.
  • Check in with the learner after giving feedback to address their emotional state. Use supportive phrasing and questioning to minimize defensive reactions.

1. Thomas, J.D., and Arnold, R,M. (2011). Giving feedback. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(2): 233-239. For assistance in retrieving the full article, please contact MCW Libraries ILLiad system to request a copy.

July 2018: Relate Feedback to Specific Behaviors

Feedback should be a routine activity, woven into the culture of learning. Faculty should strive to provide feedback that is directly related to specific learner behaviors with the goal of helping students self-reflect and modify their performance. 

Tips for Relating Feedback to Behaviors

  • Discuss the learning objectives with the learner before observing their performance. 
  • When observing, take note of behaviors that relate to the learning goals. 
  • Use specific, nonevaluative language to convey observations (e.g., “I noticed you decided to do X” rather than “You should have done Y”).

1. Thomas, J.D., and Arnold, R,M. (2011). Giving feedback. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(2): 233-239. For assistance in retrieving the full article, please contact MCW Libraries ILLiad system to request a copy.  

 
June 2018: Consider the Setting

Faculty should be mindful of the setting when gauging what and how much feedback to provide. Keep in mind the level of privacy provided by a particular setting and the learner’s ability to receive feedback given the day’s workload.

Tips for Selecting the Context of Feedback

  • Provide feedback in a private setting whenever possible.
  • Set aside time for you and the learner to focus on the feedback without extraneous distractions.
  • Focus on one or two skills or behaviors during the feedback session to avoid overwhelming the student’s ability to process the information you provide.

1Thomas, J.D., and Arnold, R,M. (2011). Giving feedback. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(2): 233-239. For assistance in retrieving the full article, please contact MCW Libraries ILLiad system to request a copy.

May 2018: Establishing Goals

Faculty can initiate the process of establishing goals by asking the learner to define what they want to work on given their personal stage of development. Learner-driven goal setting helps the goals to feel more relevant, better engaging the learners in behaviors to meet them. However, faculty should not refrain from suggesting and augmenting goals as they deem appropriate given their observations and expertise.

Tips for Establishing Goals

  • Initiate the goal setting process at the beginning of the teacher-learner interaction.
  • Invite the learner to identify their personal goals (and challenges) to engage them in an interactive process of establishing objectives.
  • Refine goals throughout the teacher-learner relationship, noting learner development and continuing to challenge them to reach the next level.

1Thomas, J.D., and Arnold, R,M. (2011). Giving feedback. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(2): 233-239. For assistance in retrieving the full article, please contact MCW Libraries ILLiad system to request a copy.   

February 2018: Faculty Behavior: Reflecting on Observed Behaviors

One faculty behavior that affects the efficacy of feedback is reflection on observed behaviors1. Reflection allows the teacher to compare the learner’s performance against the learning goal(s) and tailor their feedback to the specific learner’s needs.  Ideally, the reflection process includes faculty and learner reflection to foster collaboration and establish mutual goals.

Tips for Engaging in Reflection

  • During the observation, take note of the learner’s performance as it relates to the learning goals.
  • Ask the learner to reflect on their performance to help you focus what feedback you provide. This can be particularly important when learning goals were not communicated prior to the observation.

1Thomas, J.D., and Arnold, R,M. (2011). Giving feedback. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(2): 233-239. For assistance in retrieving the full article, please contact MCW Libraries ILLiad system to request a copy.  

January 2018: Improving the Efficacy of Feedback

Research suggests that students value feedback, considering the ability to provide it effectively as an indicator of good teaching1. However, it is important to note that student satisfaction with feedback is not indicative of its effectiveness. Rather, the feedback process should strive to make areas for improvement known in a way that allows the learner to engage in self-reflection and implement changes to their performance. Below are behaviors or skills research specifies may improve the efficacy of feedback.

Faculty behaviors or skills

  • Establish an appropriate interpersonal climate
  • Use an appropriate location
  • Establish goals
  • Elicit learner's thoughts and feelings
  • Reflect on observed behaviors
  • Be non-judgmental
  • Relate feedback to specific behaviors
  • Offer the right amount of feedback
  • Offer suggestions for improvement
  • Handle conflict proficiently
  • Have your own professional goals set in the last year
  • Allow learners to figure things out, even if they struggle

1Thomas, J.D., and Arnold, R,M. (2011). Giving feedback. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(2): 233-239.

November 2017: Goal-Oriented Feedback

Feedback is information on performance as it relates to a goal. While it can be, and often is, paired with guidance or advice, feedback itself is devoid of judgment or valuation. Simply put, feedback is a statement of what is or isn't.

Grant Wiggins (educator and author, "Seven Keys to Effective Feedback") tells us, "Information becomes feedback if, and only if, I am trying to cause something and the information tells me whether I am on track or need to change course." Without a goal in mind, attempted feedback is just more information for the learner to try to process.

Key Points

  •  Remind the learner of the goal
    • "Your goal is to obtain a thorough history from the patient. You forgot to ask about social history. What could you have asked to get the information you need?"
  • Be sure the feedback is based on what you observed
    • "Your differential did not include the possibility of disease X."

Wiggins, G. (2012, September). Seven keys to effective feedback. Educational Leadership, 70(1), 10-16. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept12/vol70/num01/Seven-Keys-to-Effective-Feedback.aspx

October 2017: When Feedback is Effective

Feedback can be an important educational tool to foster continual reflection and growth. It is dependent on effective instruction, goal setting, and students’ understanding of the assessment process.

Effective feedback relies on communication and interpretation, with the instructor and learner establishing shared goals for achievement and engaging in recurrent communication to foster growth. Learners need guidance on how to revise their current performance to achieve the desired standard. This information reduces the cognitive load so the learner focuses their energy onto the specific aspects of their performance that warrant improvement.

Key Points

  • The success of the feedback process rests in the student’s ability to receive information and interpret it effectively.
  • Feedback needs to engage the learner at, or just above, their current level of performance.
  • Feedback should reassure the student that difficulties in achieving mastery are to be expected, encouraging them to invest the effort necessary to improve.
  • Feedback is enhanced in an environment where errors and discomfort are treated as natural aspects of the learning environment.

1. Hattie, J.A.C., & Yates, G.C.R. (2014). Using feedback to promote learning. In V.A. Benassi, C.E. Overson, & C.M. Hakala (Eds.). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/index.php