Leading an Effective Intern Prep Course (IPC)

Providing Effective Feedback

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”  - Ken Blanchard

Key Learning Points

  1. Feedback can be formative (coaching) or summative (evaluative).

  2. Feedback should focus on specific behaviors, be frequent and timely, and offer specific next steps.

  3. Soliciting feedback is often as difficult as giving it, but there are strategies to make the most of your feedback conversations.

Abstract of many dull unsharpened pencils contrasted with one perfectly sharpened pencil

1. Overview

Feedback is “information given to students about their performance that guides future behavior (Ambrose et al., 2010).”

  • Feedback can be formative (coaching), that is, it provides information on a learner’s progress that is given at a time that allows for incorporation into subsequent practice.
  • Feedback can also be summative (evaluative), providing a final judgment on a learner’s performance. 

2. Guiding Principles

Guidelines for giving feedback:

  1. Set the environment:  Learners should be in a relaxed atmosphere and feel their teacher is their ally in their training.
  2. Engage the learner in self-assessment:  Ask the learner to highlight a strength and an opportunity for improvement. 
    • “Tell me one thing you do well as a teacher."
    • "What is one thing you want to try to do differently?"
  3. Name the process and get permission:  Signal the beginning of a feedback conversation to allow the learner to better process the information.
    • “Is it okay if I give you feedback now?”
  4. Give formative feedback early and often:  Timely and frequent feedback allows learners to adjust behavior more quickly and provides more opportunity for practice.  Give small doses of formative feedback.
  5. Don’t forget the positives:  Identify specific behaviors the learner does well and should continue to do, because you want to reinforce these behaviors. 
    • “You kept the students engaged, two things I saw you do well to achieve that were…”
  6. Be specific:  The best feedback highlights exact behaviors the learner did well, and those the learner should continue to practice.
    • Instead of:
      • “I think you did a great job teaching overall, but the last part I’m not sure about.”
    • Try: 
      • "I noticed the students were very engaged the entire session, because you did a great job of adding in active learning methods every 15 minutes, like the audience response questions. The students seemed confused by the last pair activity initially, so you could consider making your instructions more explicit for transitions to activities like that, and even put them on a slide.”
  7. Focus on behaviors:  Focus feedback on observable behaviors that can be modified.
    • “Your instructions for the small group session were very clear and detailed, the students knew exactly what to do.  One thing to consider trying differently next time is giving less time for group tasks, I noticed a many groups then shifted to other topics.”
  8. Limit the amount of feedback:  Too much feedback is overwhelming and fails to communicate the most important behaviors to be continued or modified.  Prioritize feedback in a given conversation to the one or two things the learner should continue and one or two things the learner can improve on.
  9. Consider using these prompts: “One thing I saw you do that worked well was…" Or, "One thing to consider trying differently next time…”
  10. Offer specific next steps:  When providing constructive feedback, coach the learner toward the next step of mastery by providing a specific next step, and provide an opportunity for the learner to help in creating this plan.
    • “One thing to practice is more focus on your three key teaching points, I noticed that a lot of students were focused on the information on different ventilator modes and settings.  Next time, you could consider taking that part out, and doing an activity that reinforces how to know when a patient needs to be intubated and immediate next steps. Let’s talk about some ideas.”

Soliciting effective feedback can be more difficult than giving it.  Here are some strategies to get the most out of feedback (adapted from Stone & Heen, 2014):

  • Be open to constructive feedback.  Soliciting and incorporating constructive feedback is hard, but you will be better for it.
  • Less is often more - ask a mentor or coach to name just one thing you can improve on.
  • Tell your coach when you want feedback and how you want to receive it.
  • Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, reflect on how incorporating the proposed changes will affect your performance (“try it on” or “try it out”).

3. Practice

4. Apply

Meet with your peer mentor to do a dry-run of your session.  Applying the principles of giving and receiving effective feedback, write down and send to your mentor:

  1. The feedback you provided to your partner.

  2. The feedback provided to you, including if and how you plan to address it in your final draft.

5. Wrap Up

Giving and receiving feedback is an important skill for educators. By applying the guiding principles discussed here, your feedback to your learners will improve. Soliciting feedback can be challenging but necessary to enhance your own skills as an educator.

Other Resources

Archer, J.C.  (2010).  State of the Science in Health Professional Education:  Effective Feedback.  Medical Education, 44, 101-8.

Ende, J.  (1983).  Feedback in clinical medical education.  Journal of the American Medical Association, 250, 777-81.


Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C., & Norman, M.K.  (2010).  How Learning Works:  Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching.  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass.

Stone, D. & Heen, S.  (2014).  Thanks for the Feedback:  The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well.  New York, NY:  Penguin Group.


Next up: Peer Mentorship

Mentor Guide: Feedback on Objectives
Mentor Guide: Feedback on Outline