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Giving formal feedback

Observations over a period of time or for specific purposes (e.g. workplace-based assessment, practical sign-offs, appraisal, end of placement interviews) are typical situations when formal feedback occurs in the clinical setting.

If ongoing feedback has been carried out regularly, then the formal feedback sessions should not contain any surprises for the learner. It is increasingly common for learners to decide when they are ready to be assessed for competence and sign-off of many workplace procedures (such as airway management, drug administration, dietary or nutritional patient assessments) and to arrange assessments with their teachers. Feedback can be given on a one-to-one basis or in small groups. The structure for giving feedback will be agreed between you and the learner(s), and may follow one of the models described above. It is also important that both you and the people to whom you are giving feedback are fully prepared for the session.

Teachers may also be required to participate in formal clinical assessments (including in skills laboratories) which should incorporate feedback to the learner. Below is an example of how this may be carried out.

Setting up a formal clinical assessment session incorporating feedback

Prior to the session you should:

  • ensure the learner is aware they are being assessed and will receive feedback (so clearly define the purpose of the feedback session prior to or at the outset of the session)
  • collect any information you need from other people
  • ensure you know the learner’s strengths and areas for development/improvement
  • make sure you know how the feedback relates to the learning programme and defined learning outcomes.


Setting the scene:

  • create an appropriate learning environment
  • clarify your ground rules with the learner as to what they are to concentrate on, when you will interrupt, what other students are to do, how the student can seek help during the consultation, etc.
  • agree a teaching focus with the learner
  • gain the patient’s consent and co-operation
  • make notes of specific points to cover.


Once the assessment is finished, during the formal feedback session, you should:

  • redefine the purpose and duration  of the feedback session
  • clarify the structure of the session
  • encourage the learner to self-assess their performance prior to giving feedback
  • aim to encourage dialogue and rapport
  • reinforce good practice with specific examples
  • identify, analyse and explore potential solutions for poor performance or deficits in practice.


After the session, you should:

  • complete any outstanding documentation and ensure the learner has copies
  • carry out any agreed follow-up activities or actions
  • make sure that opportunities for remedial work or additional learning are arranged
  • set a date for the next assessment/feedback session, if required.

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