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Feedback models

A number of practical models exist for giving feedback.

  1. The ‘feedback sandwich’, which starts and ends with positive feedback. The more critical feedback is ‘sandwiched’ between the positive aspects. Recipients often report however that they are simply waiting for the negative and thus the positive feedback is diminished or unheard. ‘I noticed that you made the relatives feel very comfortable before you explained the procedure to them and your explanation was very clear. It would have helped if you had provided the information leaflets, as at times they were looking a bit bewildered. However, you have set a time for meeting with them again, and this will give you the opportunity of answering any questions and taking the leaflets’.
  2. Reflecting observations in a chronological fashion, replaying the events that occurred during the session back to the learner. This can be helpful for short feedback sessions, but you can become bogged down in detail during long sessions.
  3. Another model for giving feedback in clinical education settings that you may have come across was developed by Pendleton (1984). This is more learner-centred, conversation based and identifies an action plan or goals: ‘reflection for action’.


Pendleton’s ‘rules’

  • Check the learner wants and is ready for feedback.
  • Let the learner give comments/background to the material that is being assessed.
  • The learner states what was done well.
  • The observer(s) state(s) what was done well.
  • The learner states what could be improved.
  • The observer(s) state(s) how it could be improved.
  • An action plan for improvement is made.


Walsh (2005) summarises a model for giving feedback to groups:

  • Start with the learners’ agenda.
  • Look at the outcomes that the session is trying to achieve.
  • Encourage self-assessment and self-problem solving first.
  • Involve the whole group in problem solving.   
  • Use descriptive feedback.
  • Feedback should be balanced (what worked and what could be done differently).
  • Suggest alternatives.
  • Rehearse suggestions through role-play.
  • Be supportive.
  • The session is a valuable tool for the whole group.
  • Introduce concepts, principles and research evidence as opportunities arise.
  • At the end, structure and summarise what has been learnt.


Although these models are useful frameworks, some are formulaic and when giving feedback to individuals or groups, an interactive approach as in model 4 or the structured debrief used in simulation is most helpful. This approach helps to develop a dialogue between the learner(s) and the person giving feedback and builds on the learners’ own self-assessment; it is collaborative and helps learners take responsibility for their own learning.

See also the Teachers’ Toolkit for a summary of Giving and Receiving Feedback.

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