Feedback is a core component of formative assessment and central to learning. It informs the trainee of progress or lack thereof. In John Hattie’s seminal work on educational effectiveness, Visible Learning for Teachers (2011), Hattie ranked feedback strategies 10th out of 150 factors that bring about significant improvements in learner outcomes.
To support trainee’s via valuable feedback, Training Officers could:
- Give the trainee an insight into observed learning needs and the resources available to facilitate and support their learning.
- Promote motivation and engagement for trainees in appropriate learning activities.
- Use questioning to identify what level a trainee is working at, provide feedback on what their next steps should be to improve their learning. Training Officers can model what successful work looks like and encourage trainees to work with peers to learn from one another too.
- Confirm the trainee’s proficiency and knowledge regarding a technique detailing what they need to do to improve their performance of the technique.
- Give detailed, effective feedback. Give trainees task-focused feedback – rather than something like ‘That’s great’. Detailed feedback about what they need to do to improve can help trainees to understand what they need to do next to succeed.
- Use minutes of one-to-one review meetings as evidence of ongoing feedback and progress.
- Question trainees about working through an error. For example: How might it be caused or discovered? What should be done when it is discovered? How should it be reported? How might this affect the patient?
- Observe a trainee setting up a machine or test.
- Ask trainees to annotate a health and safety map showing hazards within the lab, identifying what the lab has in place to minimise risks and how this affects the way in which the healthcare scientists work.
Good feedback behaviours
Feedback can have a powerful influence on trainee performance. Feedback can trigger different responses from trainees, with some receiving it negatively, associating it with criticism. However, feedback can contribute to trainees’ further development and improvement when done in a positive and constructive way. The list below suggests some elements to consider when delivering feedback.
- Find a quiet and private space.
- Create a respectful, open minded, non-threatening climate
- Focus specifically on the behaviour and the performance rather than the person. Explain the impact of the behavior and the performance.
- Base feedback on observed facts and specifics
- Give the right amount of feedback specific to the task in hand not about everything that you want to say for the last 6 months!
- Make sure you are clear on the purpose of the feedback. The only reason feedback should be given is to help the trainee improve.
- Suggest ideas for improvement
- Where appropriate, comment on progress over a number of attempts with constructive feedback and next steps of what trainees need to do to improve.
- Base feedback on well-defined, negotiated goals.
- Provide enough feedback to support learning and development. Don’t stretch too far. Assess for competence not perfection.
- Make it a two-way conversation.
- If the trainee is still unsure of what they need to do in order to improve, ask if they would like advice. Give them specific examples. Coaching, using effective questions, can sometimes be even more effective than giving advice.
- Allow the feedback to sink in. Provide opportunities for trainees’ to think things through for themselves and reflect on their learning. Listen empathetically.
- Don’t email negative feedback or wait for an appraisal meeting. Tackle issues as soon as possible. Make feedback a normal routine process so the trainee does not find it unusual.
- Listen before you speak. There might be something that you are not aware of.
- Seek to uncover the root of the problem.