Giving feedback in clinical settings

This practical and timely article was recently published online in the BMJ [subscription may be required]: 

Cantillon P, Sargeant J. Giving feedback in clinical settings. BMJ 2008 November 10;337:a1961.

Think about a clinical teaching session that you supervised recently. How much feedback did you provide? How useful do you think your feedback was?

Feedback is the cornerstone of effective clinical teaching. Without feedback, good practice is not reinforced, poor performance is not corrected, and the path to improvement not identified. Though teachers believe that they give regular and sufficient feedback, often this is not how it is perceived by learners.

Feedback is about providing information to students with the intention of narrowing the gap between actual and desired performance. The purpose of giving feedback is to encourage learners to think about their performance and how they might improve. Surveys of learners’ preferences show that they want feedback that stimulates them to reflect on what they are doing.

Feedback is a concept that is strongly theory based. From a behaviourist perspective, feedback has been shown to reinforce or modify behaviour. However, feedback can also cause harm; negative feedback, if not carefully managed, can result in demotivation and deterioration in performance. Cognitive theorists have shown that feedback helps learners to reconstruct knowledge, change their performance, and feel motivated for future learning. Empirical evidence also shows that feedback enhances clinical performance. For example, in a recent systematic review, regular feedback significantly improved the clinical performance of consultant clinicians.

Of special note:
How best to do it : The following eight general principles of effective feedback are derived from educational theory and research literature addressing feedback in the fields of education and personnel management.

BMJ Link
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