Giving great feedback

Good quality feedback must be at the heart of all your teaching. It is an essential part of the teaching and learning process, but is surprisingly difficult to do well. There are several models and frameworks for giving feedback, which aim to ensure that it is specific, fair and useful to the trainee. A BMJ article "Giving feedback" gives some background to why feedback sometimes goes wrong, and a guide for how to do it well.



Developed in the 1980s. Most people are aware of and use this model to structure feedback. 

  1. The trainee is asked to identifying his or her own strengths
  2. The trainer reinforces these and adds further strengths
  3. The trainee is asked to identify areas for improvement
  4. The trainer reinforces these, adding further areas if necessary, ensuring constructive suggestions are given for improvement

A BMJ article "Giving feedback in clinical settings" explores how to use this model in context. The Pendleton is a good start, as it helps the learner set the objectives, gives positive feedback first for safety, and encourages specific rather than generic feedback. However, it has limitations, can seem formulaic and the feedback given is often superficial. 


An alternative is the SET-GO method which can be very useful in a bedside teaching context with a group. It was developed by Silverman et al as part of the Calgary-Cambridge approach to teaching communication skills.

  • Other group members feedback on:

    • What I Saw was... (specific, descriptive)
  • Teacher prompts if necessary with:

    • What Else did you see, group?
    • What did you Think, learner? (encourage learner to problem solve for themselves)
  • Teacher then facilitates whole group in problem-solving

    • Let's clarify what Goal we would like to achieve.
    • Any Offers of how we could achieve this?


As well as needing a structure, the feedback that is actually given must be high quality. 

  • Balanced. Include both good and bad points
  • Observed. Only give examples of what you have seen the learner see and do, don't bring in your preconceptions or previous experience
  • Objective or Owned. Make sure your feedback is factual and based on actions, not any prior emotional response you may have to the person
  • Specific. Always use specific examples to illustrate a comment. Exactly why or how was the action done well or badly? Avoid broad statements
  • Timely. Feedback should be given as close to the event as possible to ensure accuracy and effectiveness

Alternatively you can view a description of the BOOST model as a video

Other things to consider are where and when you give feedback, and who else is present at the time. A further consideration is how much feedback to give in order to maximise learning, and not overload the learner. 

A presentation from the Higher Education Academy entitled "Giving Feedback: Tools of the Trade" is available on slideshare.