Feedback addresses specific actions with the goal of improving performance. Feedback is important because it: 1) helps students improve performance and decision-making skills, 2) helps students learn faster, 3) provides structure and direction to learning, 4) builds confidence, 5) increases self-awareness and motivation, and 6) strengthens self-assessment skills.
Students often report they do not receive enough feedback. This is not surprising given the variety of barriers typically cited by instructors. Those who are teaching may mistakenly see feedback as only necessary when there are negative behaviors in need of correction. Some individuals may feel awkward giving feedback for fear of offending or weakening relationships with students. Feedback also is often viewed as time consuming. It is important to reflect on any personal barriers you might have and to consciously work to improve your feedback techniques.
Effective feedback is characterized by the instructor and trainee working as partners and allies towards common goals. Feedback is especially effective when it is solicited by the learner, is timely, and is based on first-hand data or direct-observation. Feedback should be focused and address observable actions or decisions. It also is important not to make assumptions about motivations or presumed intent. These principles for feedback apply to both oral and written feedback.
Giving feedback can be challenging for many people, but there are strategies that can make it easier. It can help to ask students for their perceptions first, and then ask what they might wish to change. Another effective approach, the "Feedback Sandwich," consists of first giving positive feedback, then constructive feedback for improvement, and then positive feedback.
Applying these principles of feedback will improve the efficiency of the learning process and are likely to result in more constructive educational experiences for learners and more rewarding experiences for educators.