This module is mainly about giving effective feedback to learners, but more recent research suggests that it is more helpful to focus on how feedback is received. Many of the models start with asking the recipient to assess their own performance and, whilst this is a learner-centred approach, there are risks, particularly if learners do not receive sufficient regular, routine feedback from external sources, that they will not have enough understanding to self-assess. In order for professionals to effectively self-monitor and evaluate their own performance, they need to move from individual, internalised self-assessment to self-directed assessment-seeking behaviours. This is best achieved through ongoing, regular, supportive external feedback from a range of reliable and valid sources.
Sometimes feedback is not received positively or acted upon by learners, and this can inhibit teachers giving regular face-to-face feedback. Learners often discount their ability to take responsibility for their learning, and their responses may present in negative ways, including anger, denial, blaming or rationalisation. Eva et al note that differing interpretations or uptakes of feedback may be based on a number of factors including personality factors, fear, confidence, context and individual reasoning processes (2012). People’s responses to actual or perceived criticism, however constructively it is framed, can vary. Learners with high emotional stability, responsibility and sociability are more likely to be motivated to seek feedback and use it constructively. When giving feedback therefore, it is helpful to maintain an empathic yet consistent approach with a view to helping learners take responsibility for development and improvement.
The aim of developing an open dialogue between the person giving feedback and the recipient is so that both parties are relaxed and able to focus on actively listening, engaging with the learning points and messages, and developing these into action points for future development. You can help to prepare learners (and yourself) for receiving feedback by providing opportunities for them to practise the guidelines listed below.
Guidelines for receiving constructive feedback
- Listen to it (rather than prepare a response/defence).
- Ask for it to be repeated if you did not hear it clearly.
- Assume it is constructive until proven otherwise; then consider and use those elements that are constructive.
- Pause and think before responding – your aim is to have a professional conversation that helps you.
- Ask for clarification and examples if statements are general, unclear or unsupported.
- Accept it positively (for consideration) rather than dismissively (for self-protection).
- Ask for suggestions of ways you might modify or change your behaviour.
- Respect and thank the person giving feedback.