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Tailoring academic feedback to meet the requirements of medical education

Clinical and professional practice tutors draw up feedback guidelines for their teaching during workshop

Caroline Fertleman teaching

5 November 2018

In a one-hour workshop, clinical and professional practice tutors for the UCL medical school programme (MBBS) have drawn up their own academic feedback guidelines.

The workshop was based on the Giving Good Quality Feedback workshops run by the UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education and tailored to the needs of these tutors and their students.

The workshop was designed and delivered by Prof Caroline Fertleman, Director for Undergraduate Education for the UCL Medical School (Whittington Campus) and Dr Jenny Griffiths, Associate Director, UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education.

Joint facilitation by a respected educator who is practising clinically and a member of the UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education ensured the engagement of all the tutors, who are experienced medical professionals, accustomed to providing feedback to staff and students.

Who were the participants?

Clinical and Professional Practice tutors, who begin working with UCL medical students at the very beginning of their academic careers: years 1 and 2 of the MBBS (6 year programme).

The tutorial groups, each around 16 students in size, meet with the same tutor every two weeks throughout term time.

They build a long-term relationship with their tutor while developing their knowledge and skills across areas such as ethics and law, communication, e-health and professional conduct through a mixture of seminars, lectures and debates.

The tutors give the students verbal formative feedback throughout the tutorials as well as written feedback on assignments and assessments.

Why did you design a bespoke workshop?

To ensure relevance of the workshop for the participants, all of whom are practising clinicians rather than university lecturers, it was important to give the disciplinary context and knowledge of medical student education (these were provided by Caroline Fertleman).

Equally relevant were the pedagogical background and examples of feedback practice from across UCL and the Higher Education sector, provided by Jenny Griffiths.

The session had two aims:

  1. to help participants identify the characteristics of good feedback for Clinical and Professional Practice;
  2. to help students engage with their feedback through dialogue.

The workshop started by looking at ways to engage students with their feedback in a meaningful way so that they could improve future work, before the group of experienced professional participants discussed and created their own list of guidelines for feedback in these tutorials.

Samples of feedback from these tutorials were also circulated to newly appointed staff so that they could develop their personal understanding of the feedback they should be giving students.

What feedback did you get?

We received positive feedback from participants and the academic lead for Clinical and Professional Practice.

“Thank you very much for facilitating the session on feedback today. [The tutors] especially appreciated the anecdotes and tips on how to 'smartly' deliver feedback. I thought Jenny's point about being concise and telling students (or indeed colleagues) what to leave out was a good one. Longer than 60 minutes would have been ideal, but we only catch them for 2 mornings a year and there is so much to get through, it's always a packed agenda.”

“Your session was appreciated by tutors and the CPP team, thank you.”

What are the next steps?

For Clinical and Professional Practice: tutors to use their newly created guidelines to inform how they give feedback to students, and also to begin dialogue directly with students to ensure a common understanding of how the students can improve.

For Arena: work with more departments/disciplines to extend the model of collaborating with key staff to create sessions with maximum impact for staff. Contact Dr Jenny Griffiths in the Arena Centre for Research-Based Education to get support and resources in your own department, institute or faculty.