kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Feedback should be precise

EMPLOYERS give feedback to employees to increase their efficiency.

And trainers give feedback to trainees to improve their skills.
With respect to educational institutions, feedback is the process of helping students assess their performance and identify areas of their strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, it involves guiding them to improve on their weaknesses and sustaining their strengths.

Teachers are most often thought of as a source of feedback. However, a student’s peer can be an excellent source mistakes go uncorrected and good performance is not reinforced.

However, there are many barriers to providing effective feedback.
Although students are eager for feedback, they may be uncomfortable interacting with teachers and asking for it.

Also, since students’ self-assessment skills are not yet well developed, they may not know what questions to ask.

Many teachers have no formal training and feel uncomfortable giving specific feedback to students.

They have fear of “hurting the students’ feelings”, or they do not know how to translate their observations into specific and constructive feedback.

Consequently, feedback is often general and not helpful to students.

Feedback is not the same as criticism, which is driven by the frustration and fears of the provider, not by the needs of the recipient.

The underlying assumption is that the recipient somehow “should know better” and needs to be set straight.

In contrast, feedback has an approach of caring concern, respect and support.

Far from being a sweet chat, feedback is an honest, clear, adult-to-adult discussion about specific behaviours and their effects.

The assumption is that both parties have positive intentions and they want to do what is right for them, the profession and institution.

There is an art to giving feedback. If not done properly, or done with the wrong intention, recipients will take the comments as criticism and respond defensively. In teaching institutions the students may be asked how often they would like feedback, and a plan is developed accordingly.

To be effective feedback has to be “PRECISE”:

P — Positive and practical: For effective feedback a positive approach is fundamental. Feedback is a constructive process and both the teacher and the student have to understand its purpose.

Feedback is not intended to insult or demean and should be delivered in a non-threatening and positive manner.

It is often helpful to ask students to assess their own performance.
Often they will be harsher about their performance, which then allows teachers to be more positive in their approach.

When assessing performance, focus should be on what went well and what can be improved. Feedback is more effective if teachers and students agree on this assessment.

Some educators advocate the P-N-P (positive-negative-positive) sandwich approach to providing feedback. Begin with a positive statement, then give corrective feedback and conclude with another positive assessment.
However, the positive comments must be genuine, or the provider will lose credibility with the student.

There is no point in making suggestions that are not practical. Focus on what can change and make suggestions for improvements that the student is capable of implementing.

R – Relevant: The feedback should be relevant to the issue at hand. Give a clear and specific description, and avoid generalising. Keep it objective. Deal with the facts of the current situation. Describe the incident and provide a step-by-step plan on how the incident should have been handled.

E — Evidence-based: Good feedback is based on personal observations, not on hearsay. Be descriptive rather than evaluative and tell the student what you noticed or what has happened.

C — Constructive/
confidential: Feedback is meant to be constructive. It is intended to improve future performance, and should not be given for any other reason.

Preferably the feedback should be given in private, unless it can be given in such a manner as not to embarrass anybody.

Let the saying, “praise in public, punish in private,” be your guide.

I — Immediate/informal: It goes stale when left unsaid too long, so give feedback as close to the event as possible.

The best feedback occurs daily, not just at the end of the course. If done frequently, the comments will seem less like an evaluation, and more like helpful suggestions.

Excellent feedback given at an inappropriate time may do more harm than good. Often after a bad outcome, students are working through their own emotions, and are often quite critical of their performance.

At this time, brief feedback and emotional support are best, followed by more detailed feedback later.

S — Specific: Use precise language about what students did right specifically or what they need to do to improve. Students may momentarily feel good about themselves when you say “well done”. However, they will also wonder what specifically they did to earn your praise. Instead of saying“you are rough”, provide specific feedback such as “The subject appeared uncomfortable when you were doing the procedure.”

Remember to focus on the performance and behaviour, not on the person. Focusing on the behaviour allows a dispassionate dialogue with the student.

Often, the best help is not simply providing the information but also supporting students to come to a better understanding of the issue, how it developed and how they can identify actions to address the problem more effectively.

E — Encouraging: Before providing feedback, take a few moments to choose your words and confirm your intention that you are providing feedback to improve students’ performance.

Avoid evaluative language and end with encouraging words.

NB: Alam Sher MalikThe writer is Professor of Paediatrics and curriculum coordinator of the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Teknologi Mara. Email him at

The NST Home Learning Curve Article 2011/08/17
Tags: assessment, education, teachers

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