Feedback goes hand-in-hand with assessment as a successful strategy for learning and improvement. Effective feedback is a priority for the mentor–student relationship in order for students to progress and learn from their experiences. Clynes and Raftery (2008) describe feedback in clinical practice as ‘an interactive process which aims to provide learners with insight into their performance’ (p. 405).
Mentor feedback is also important for education providers and their external examiners, and also as part of regulatory body quality assurance and monitoring processes. Mentors may also be asked to give feedback on students who are being mentored by other colleagues.
Activity 6 How do you give feedback?
- Reflect on the last time you gave feedback to a learner. What strategies did you use and how did it make you feel?
- How do you think the learner benefited from this feedback?
- Would you do anything differently next time?
It can be challenging to give feedback, in particular if it involves an identified area of the student’s practice that needs improving. It can seem much easier to give positive feedback, although all feedback should be viewed as constructive in helping the student progress and improve. Clear feedback and direction in how to improve is vital, with studies suggesting that students do not want generalised or superficial feedback that does little to help them understand what they need to do to develop their practice (Murray et al., 2010; Aston and Hallam, 2014). It is important when assessing a student that they receive feedback when applying quality standards to service users from a variety of backgrounds, including ethnic, religious, physical, learning or mental ability, and social class, to exclude bias or prejudice.
You may have used terms such as ‘Well done’, ‘That’s good’, ‘That’s fine’, ‘That wasn’t too bad’, ‘That’s OK, just keep practising’ or ‘That’s not quite right yet’. These are all general comments but do not provide specific, constructive feedback in how to improve or know why particular interventions were good. Constructive feedback needs to give further detail and refer to relevant criteria so that the student clearly understands how their practice is progressing. The ‘sandwich method’ is an established strategy for giving feedback, whereby a discussion relating to the need for improvement is ‘sandwiched’ between two pieces of positive feedback that highlight strengths and progression (Dohrenwend, 2002).