Guidelines for preparing for, giving and receiving feedback

Feedback is not a simple transaction of information provided by teachers for students. Feedback needs to be elicited by students from a variety of sources, and used to produce better work. The following suggestions can be used by any parties in the feedback process. Reflect on how you might make use of them in your teaching.

Preparing for feedback

[Sometimes the process and form is set by others, in other cases the learner can propose what might be helpful]

Identify what information is needed – do I need information about knowledge, processes, skills, appropriateness, communicability, etc.?

Formulate a request for feedback – how can I help the provider of information give me what I need? If I don’t ask for what I need, I mightn’t get it.

Choose the form needed – direct annotations, general comments, illustrations or exemplars, etc. In writing, in conversation, in some other mode?

Identify who can provide information – lecturer/tutor, peer, supervisor, practitioner, etc.


Giving feedback comments to others

Be realistic and specific – direct comments towards matters on which the person can act. Don’t make generalizations. Base your comments on concrete observable behaviour or materials. Provide examples.

Be sensitive to the goals of the other – just because the other person’s contributions have not met your goals doesn’t necessarily imply that something is wrong. The person produced the work for a specific purpose and you should be aware of that purpose and give your views accordingly.

Be timely – time your comments appropriately. It is no use offering feedback after the person receiving it has moved on to other things.

Be consciously non-judgemental – offer your personal view, do not act as an authority even if you may be one. The more judgemental the form of the comment, the more difficult is it for the receiver to take it in and respond to it.

Be direct – say what you mean, but don’t be harsh. The more indirect, the more likely your comments will not be understood.

Be positive – say what you appreciate. Don’t just focus on what you react negatively towards.

Be aware – note your own emotional state before you give feedback. Feedback is never a time for you to relieve yourself at the expense of the other person.


Receiving feedback comments

There is no point in asking others to provide information unless you are prepared to be open to it and to consider comments which differ from your own perceptions. As receiver:

Be explicit – make it clear what kind of feedback you are seeking. If necessary, indicate what kinds you do not want to receive. The feedback from others is entirely for your benefit and if you do not indicate what you want you are unlikely to get it.

Be aware – notice your own reactions, both intellectual and emotional. Particularly notice any reactions of rejection or censorship on your part. If the viewpoint from which the other is speaking is at variance with your own, do not dismiss it: it can be important to realize the misapprehensions of others.

Don’t argue – refrain from making an immediate response. Take in what is being communicated and act only once you can appreciate the comments.


Acting on information

Remember that feedback requires that information received is acted upon. Without this final stage, it is merely hopefully useful information.

Understanding correctly – do I understand what information has been provided? Do I need to check with the person providing it? Do I need to find another source?

Identify what needs to be taken from the information – what notes should I take on the key points? How can I formulate them so I can use them subsequently?

Decide what opportunities there are to act upon this knowledge – should I rework what I have done now to show myself that I can do it differently? Is there a forthcoming assignment in which this can be applied?

Ensure valuable information is not lost or forgotten – where can this information be best retained: among course notes, as part of files for assignments, etc.? Will I understand the most important aspects if I return to my notes much later?


(Updated and reworked from Boud, 1986)