What is giving constructive feedback?

Feedback is an essential element for everyone. Giving feedback is an important task to perform letting us know where we are and where to go next in terms of expectations and goals – yours as a learner and for our onward business.

Feedback is a useful tool for indicating when things are going in the right direction or for redirecting problem performance. Your objective in giving feedback is to provide guidance by supplying information in a useful manner, either to support effective behaviour or to guide us back on track toward successful performance.

Some situations which require giving constructive feedback include:

  • If you feel that a tutor has gone over and above to accommodate a learner
  • If you feel the course content doesn’t fulfil the requirements laid out in the course guidelines
  • If you feel a tutor has been or is being discriminatory or unprofessional to a learner
  • If you feel that what we are teaching is incorrect or inaccurate
  • If you feel there is anything that could be added into the course to help with your learning
  • If you would like to compliment a tutor for their abilities or the way in which they helped with your learning

Six ways to make feedback constructive 

Part of being effective is knowing what feedback to give. The trick is knowing how to give it constructively so that it has some value. Constructive feedback is a tool that we here at Brighton Holistics use to build things up, not break things down. It lets us know that you are on our side.

1. If you can’t think of a constructive purpose for giving feedback, don’t give it at all.

2. Focus on description rather than judgement.

Describing behaviour is a way of reporting what has occurred while judging behaviour is an evaluation of what has occurred in terms of “right or wrong”, or “good or bad”. By avoiding evaluative language, you reduce the need for a defensive response.

For example: “The tutors demonstrate a high degree of confidence when answering questions about practical skills, “rather than, “The skills are good.”

3. Focus on observation rather than inference.

Observations refer to what you have seen or heard about our behaviour, while inferences refer to the assumptions and interpretations you make from what you see or hear. Focus on what we have done and your reaction.

For example: “When sending an email, the response was short.” rather than describe what you assume to be the person’s motivation, “It seemed that all emails are answered with no interest!’

4. Focus on behaviour rather than the person

Refer to what an individual has done rather than on what you imagine she or he is. To focus on behaviour, use adverbs, which describe action, rather than adjectives, which describe qualities.

For example: “The tutor talked considerably during the lesson, which prevented me from getting to some of the main points,” rather than “The tutor talks too much.”

5. Provide a balance of positive and negative feedback

If you consistently give only positive or negative feedback, people will distrust the feedback and it will become useless.

6. Be aware of feedback overload.

Select two or three important points you want to make and offer feedback about those points. If you overload with feedback, we may become confused about what needs to be accoladed, improved or changed.

Giving feedback constructively benefits everyone. Reflectively we can use the on-going exchange of information as a way of getting to know our students and providing them with a rich and valuable learning experience. From receiving such feedback Brighton Holistics gains an improved course delivery structure.

The four-step method for giving constructive feedback

Step 1: State the constructive purpose of your feedback.

State your purpose briefly by indicating what you’d like to cover and why it’s important. If you are initiating feedback, this focus keeps the other party from having to guess what you are opening out. A focusing statement will make sure that you direct your feedback toward what we are seeking.

For example:

“I feel I need to let you know.”

“I want to discuss.”

“I have some thoughts about.”

“I have a concern about”

Step 2: Describe specifically what you have observed.

Have a certain event or purpose in mind and be able to say what it was/ and what the results were. Stick to what you personally observed/experienced and don’t try to speak for others. Avoid talking vaguely about what a tutor “always” or “usually” did.

For example: “In the weekend classroom tutorials, when speaking with the students, I noticed that the tutor paid exceptional attention to the questions being asked.”

Step 3: Describe your reactions.

Explain the consequences of the situation/behaviour and how you feel about it. Give examples of how you and others were affected. When you describe your reactions or the consequences of the observed behaviours, we can better appreciate the impact the actions are having on others and on the situation as a whole.

For example: “The other students looked relaxed and I felt comfortable about seeing and being within this learning environment for it.” “Encouraging the students was a behaviour I regularly observed.”

Step 4: Give the other person an opportunity to respond.

We know that constructive feedback is about meeting the other person and at times seeking a response. It is here we humbly ask if you have a certain event or circumstance in mind please do contact us in person before leaving an online review. We are genuinely interested in what you think; your view of your learning and your associated reaction to this. This will allow us the opportunity to explain the reason why something may have had to be done in a certain way.

For example: “I have finished all my work within 6 months, but wasn’t allowed to take the final assessment early.” We could then be given the opportunity to explain to you that the reason for this is that it is an accreditation requirement to have completed all tutorial days before taking your final assessment. Putting a review like this online without an explanation may make us seem uncaring when actually it is a requirement.

Wherever possible we will express support and neutrality in answers whereby working to meet expected standards. We benefit from ideas that will help us to perform better, including practical, feasible examples. In some and such cases an online review may not be appropriate without initiating a meeting of minds beforehand in persons, by email or telephone contact. We warmly request for you not to create a suggestion or complaint for improvement just for the sake of it before seeking our assistance and response.

 If your feedback is offered supportively; everyone involved will find it useful and will be able to benefit from it.