This is part of the CanadiEM Teaching That Counts Infographic Series, where we take the current research and evidence on how to teach well in the emergency department, and distill it down into bite-sized chunks that are rapidly digestible and memorable.
Teaching That Counts: Giving Feedback
Do you ever wonder if giving feedback is worth your time? Are you worried a learner may be offended by negative feedback? Are you unsure if they will utilize, or even remember your feedback? Do you try to avoid giving feedback altogether? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone1. Feedback can be tough, both to give and receive, but research shows that giving learners feedback positively impacts their learning and performance2. In this edition of “Teaching That Counts”, we’re going to give you some tips and tricks on how to give feedback (that counts!).
Ingredients to Good Feedback: A Recipe for Success
While you are negotiating your learning plan with the learner at the beginning of the shift (see Tailoring Your Teaching to the Individual Learner) let them know you will be giving them feedback3. Say something like “I like to give my learners feedback throughout and at the end of every shift”. This normalizes the process by letting them know that every learner gets feedback. Also, let them know that you will be asking them to self-assess, and that they will have a chance to give you feedback as well. This will encourage them to be reflective throughout the shift.
Challenge yourself to give feedback not only at the end of the shift, but also throughout the shift. Giving feedback on a behaviour soon after you observe it allows the learner to utilize it immediately and practice it throughout the shift.
Generalizations are harder for a learner to accept (and are often less true!). For example, if you say “your management plan could have been more patient-centred”, there are a number of things that the learner could have done, or not done, to provide patient-centred care. This vague statement may leave the learner confused, upset, or just indifferent to your feedback. Giving a specific example is more factual and leaves less room for misinterpretation.
Just like a case-presentation in the ED should be concise, so should your feedback. Don’t feel you need to teach a learner everything in one shift. They will absorb less, and may feel overwhelmed. Pick two items at maximum. If they take away just one piece of feedback from the shift and put it into practice in the future, consider that a win!
Linking your feedback to a specific case that the learner has seen that day legitimizes your feedback by including objective “data” in your subjective reflection. Keeping feedback case-based also makes it more memorable for the learner.
Before you give feedback, think to yourself “is this behaviour remediable? If so, how, specifically?” If the answer to those questions is “no” and/or “I don’t know”, then it may not be helpful. Feedback on something that can’t be fixed, or feedback without qualifying how it can be fixed can leave the learner frustrated and possibly resentful. By providing an action item that the learner can reasonably take, considering his/her stage of training, you empower their learning and growth.
So give it a try. Give some feedback, and make it count! Your learner will thank you.
- 1.Anderson P. Giving feedback on clinical skills: are we starving our young? J Grad Med Educ. 2012;4(2):154-158. doi:10.4300/JGME-D-11-000295.1
- 2.Norcini J. The power of feedback. Medical Education. January 2010:16-17. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03542.x
- 3.Helman A, Mattu A, Pencer R. Teaching On Shift. Emergency Medicine Cases. https://emergencymedicinecases.com/episode-99-highlights-emu-2017/. Published July 2017. Accessed December 2019.