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(Material used in this resource is adapted from Boud, D 1991, Implementing student self assessment, 2nd. edn, HERDSA, Sydney.)

What is feedback?

  1. Constructive comment on another’s work
  2. One of the most valuable contributions anyone can make to another’s learning
  3. Useful information that can help someone learn more effectively
  4. Your views on someone else’s work
  5. Potentially either constructive and useful or unhelpful and harmful

Unhelpful feedback

Angry colleague giving unhelpful feedback

Unhelpful and potentially harmful feedback:

  • can make people feel ‘got at’, attacked, put down and generally invalidated as a person
  • is destructive comment, directed at the person
  • is not constructive – does not suggest other ways of doing something
  • is ill-judged – it comes from the needs of the person giving it, rather than the person receiving it.

Constructive feedback

  • affirms the worth of the person
  • gives support whilst offering reactions to the work
  • is sensitive to the person’s needs and goals
  • can be critical but is always respectful
  • makes a distinction between the person who is always valued and the work
  • is only effective when the other person’s humanity is respected

Colleagues providing constructive feedback

Giving constructive feedback

  • Always start with a point on which you can give genuine positive feedback: say what you appreciate about the work before offering critical feedback
  • Tone, style and content should provide the message ‘I appreciate you and what you’ve done’
  • Note your own emotional state before you give feedback – if you are anxious or defensive you may well distort otherwise helpful comments
  • Be realistic: direct comments to elements which the person can do something about
  • Be specific: generalisations are unhelpful, provide examples
  • Be sensitive: affirm the person’s purpose in producing the work and link comments to their intentions
  • Be timely: respond when your feedback is requested or required
  • Be direct: say what you mean clearly
  • Be diligent: is your reaction to the work accurate?

Receiving feedback

  • Have an open mind: be ready to receive comments that differ from your own perspective
  • Be attentive: concentrate fully on what is being said
  • Be aware: notice your own reactions – do not immediately dismiss a perspective different to your own
  • Be silent: do not respond until the person has finished giving their feedback – don’t react quickly with defensive responses; carefully consider what is being said

Language when giving and receiving feedback


Talk about the good things first, then suggest ways the person could improve their work.

I like the way you explained the topic first and then used examples. Have you thought about adding a section that analyses the differences…?
You’ve got some great ideas here, especially regarding the problems involved, but perhaps it could have a different structure. Maybe these ideas could be arranged according to…
This format is terrific. It’s so easy to read and the sections are really well laid out. I was wondering, though, if you could put the analysis of the problems first and follow it with...
Be positive
  • I like the way you...
  • This section is really clear...
  • The example works well...
  • Your section on the...was really interesting
Responding to feedback
  • Do you mean...
  • I didn't quite understand what you meant by...
  • Yes, I see. I didn't think of that...
  • Thanks, it's helpful to hear that...
  • Thanks, it's interesting you see it that way...
  • That's really useful, I'll try and...
Suggest improvements
  • You might like to think about...
  • Perhaps this section could...
  • It might be useful to add...
  • Have you thought about...?
  • I found this part a bit confusing...