Giving Feedback

“We think that feedback is at the heart of medical education. [Clinical educators] need to observe carefully, and…take notes on the observations in order to be able to make helpful concrete suggestions”. (Branch & Paranjpe, 2002, p. 1187).

“Typically, the greater the specificity, the more helpful the input.” (Dowling, 2001, p. 75)

Ideas for the Clinical Educator:

The following principles (Ende, 1983; Ellis, 2001) will help to guide your feedback:

Work as an ally of the student:

  • set a time for feedback – the sooner the better after a session
  • ask the student about his/her performance before providing your comments(e.g.” Did the session go as you expected?”)
  • relate feedback comments to mutually agreed upon goals; ask the student beforehand what he/she would like you to comment on
  • check with the student that he/she is clear about your comments

Base feedback on specific aspects of performance and on modifiable behaviour(based on data you have gathered as you observed)

  • give feedback that is specific, can be validated and is non-judgemental
  • give feedback on decisions and actions, not on one’s interpretations of the student’s motives
  • balance positive feedback with constructive criticism
  • subjective data should be labeled as such

Give feedback in small, digestible quantities

Involve the student in finding solutions

What strategies do you find work well ? Let us know


Branch, W. & Paranjpe, A. (2002). Feedback and reflection: Teaching methods

for clinical settings. Academic Medicine, vol. 77, No., 12, 1185-1188.

Dowling, S. (2001). Supervision: Strategies for Successful Outcomes and Productivity. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Ellis, G. (2001). Looking at ourselves – self-assessment and peer assessment: practice examples from New Zealand . Reflective Practice, vol. 2, No. 3, 289-302.

Ende, J. (1983). Feedback in clinical medical education. JAMA, 250, 777-781. How to Give Effective Feedback