Teaching That Counts: Tips on Receiving Feedback

In Education & Quality Improvement, Featured, Infographics by Krista Dowhos1 Comment

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: Tips on Receiving Feedback

Do you ever have difficulty receiving feedback from learners? Is receiving feedback as a teacher something you actively avoid? Do you find feedback challenging to listen to? If your answers are yes, you are not alone​1​. Receiving feedback is easier when we view it as a skill that can be improved upon. Research shows that feedback positively impacts learning and makes us more aware of our teaching performance​2​. Having an openness to receiving feedback from learners increases our teaching skills and our passion for teaching. In this edition of ‘Teaching That Counts’ we review helpful tips to get more from the feedback you receive.

Viewing Feedback As An Active Process

It is helpful to look at receiving feedback as an active process on the receiver’s end. Oftentimes, we look at feedback like it is being imposed on us, as if we are passive victims in the process. When it is framed this way, it never seems fun. When you re-frame feedback to be an activity that you are embracing and actually requesting, it is empowering. Remember that receiving feedback is a skill that is practiced and improved upon. Although we cannot control how the feedback is relayed (see Teaching That Counts “Giving Feedback” for how it should be done), we can control how we receive feedback. This empowers you as the feedback recipient. This empowerment is backed up in literature, which demonstrates that feedback-seeking behavior is associated with greater job satisfaction and performance​3​.

Challenges of Receiving Feedback

Learning vs Acceptance

When we hear feedback, we often can feel that the reason we are receiving feedback is that those giving feedback do not approve nor accept us. These feelings can be especially intensified when the feedback is given by valued supervisors or preceptors. However, it is important to remember that people give you feedback because they know you are capable of improvement and want you to be successful. When receiving feedback, it is important to reframe your mindset from “they are giving me feedback because they don’t like me, or don’t accept me” to “they like me enough to take time out of their day to help me improve”.  

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is when an individual doubts their own worth! This is a very common syndrome, especially among medical students and residents. Imposter Syndrome can be particularly challenging for teachers early on in their career who are transitioning from a learner role to a teacher role.

Imposter syndrome makes it challenging to receive positive feedback because it is either assumed the feedback is not genuine or the learner feels that they have not earned the positive feedback.

The first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is to acknowledge your thought process and put it in perspective. Discussing these feelings with trusted colleagues or mentors can help reassure and give you perspective on how far your skill set has grown. Reframing your thought process from “I hope no one finds out I have no clue what I am doing” to “New roles/experiences can feel foreign in the beginning, although I may not feel confident in the answers now, I am smart enough to figure it out”

Three Steps to Getting More From Your Feedback:

In the spirit of feedback as an active process, it can be helpful to think of feedback as having three ‘critical actions’:

1. Ask For Feedback

  • Make a routine of asking for feedback at the end of every shift.
  • Prior to your shift, think about something you would like feedback on, and let your learner know you want to discuss it at the end.
    • For example, you could say “I’ve been working on giving learners more independence on shifts, could you let me know how you felt this went by the end of the shift?”.
  • Be prepared to add to the feedback discussion by mentioning things you did well and other areas that could be improved. By doing so, you will create a two-way discussion for yourself and the learner which makes giving and receiving feedback much more enjoyable.
  • By engaging in the two-way discussion, you set the tone that you are open to learning and growing. This ensures that you will receive feedback that is relevant to your learning needs. It’s also going to make it more likely the feedback will stick.

2. Be Curious About Your Feedback

  • Once the feedback is ‘given’, the process of receiving feedback isn’t over! Next, you should ask questions about the feedback.
  • Being curious about the feedback you receive helps to further facilitate a two-way discussion. You could say something like “what specifically did you find helpful when you were working on this as a trainee?”
  • Remember, if the feedback is resisted (i.e. by arguing, justifying, or shutting learners down), this will end the conversation and create a less welcoming environment for your learner to give feedback in the future.

3. Follow-up on Your Feedback

  • Always summarize and reflect on your feedback when you get home.
  • On your next shift, brief your learner on what feedback you are working on improving, and what they could look for. Make sure to implement changes to facilitate improvement.
  • You can say something like “Last shift the learner said I could work on […]. I was hoping to work on improving this today, would you be able to give me feedback on how successful I am in making this change?

For more discussion on how to receive feedback, check out the Teaching That Counts segment on Episode 18 of the MacEmerg podcast

Content edited by Dr. Teresa Chan and Dr. Alim Nagji.


  1. 1.
    Anderson PAM. Giving Feedback on Clinical Skills: Are We Starving Our Young? Journal of Graduate Medical Education. Published online June 2012:154-158. doi:10.4300/jgme-d-11-000295.1
  2. 2.
    Norcini J. The power of feedback. Medical Education. Published online January 2010:16-17. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03542.x
  3. 3.
    Stone D, Heen S. Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. 1st ed. Penguin Books; 2014.

Krista Dowhos

Krista is a 2nd year Family Medicine resident at McMaster's Kitchener-Waterloo distributed campus. She was born and raised in Thunder Bay, where she completed her undergraduate medical training. She is passionate about all things FOAMEd, especially the production of infographics for knowledge translation in Emergency Medicine.

Kara Tastad

Kara Tastad an Emergency Medicine Resident at the University of Toronto. She is a Graphic Design Lead for CanadiEM. Outside of medicine, you are likely to find her traveling, swimming, painting, or baking.