6 ways to provide better feedback!


Feedback on performance is critical in closing the communication loop to a candidate. Too much feedback, too soon can be overwhelming but too little can be demotivating and produce diminished results. So how can we strike a happy balance? This article looks at six things trainers can do to provide better feedback.

1. Find the sweet spot with MIC (Maintain, Improve or Change) when reflecting on participant performance.

This helps the trainer to focus their feedback on things that have measurable outcomes. By identifying what participants should keep doing (maintain), get better at (improve) or modify (change), they will be able to guide them optimal performance. Another variation to “MIC” is “stop, start, continue”.

2. Use a rubric

Rubrics have become a popular way for teachers and trainers to communicate the performance expectations of participants. According to Heidi Andrade, a Rubric is a document that lists the criteria for a piece of work, or “what counts”, and describes the levels of quality from excellent to poor. Within a competency-based environment, a rubric can still be used to identify the requirements of a “competent” performance, but also provides guidance for trainers for the type of feedback that can be given when a participant exceeds the minimum standard.

Rubrics appeal to teachers and students for a number reasons. Firstly, they can improve student performance by making the expectations clear and secondly, they can show students how they can meet these expectations. Further to this, when used as part of a formative assessment, rubrics can assist students in developing an ability to make reliable judgments about the quality of their own work.

While many teachers want to use rubrics, they can be quite time-consuming to develop from scratch. One tool to help time-poor teachers is RubiStar, which is an online Rubric maker. Check it out at: rubistar.4teachers.org

3. Use Technology

In addition to RubiStar, there are a plethora of useful e-tools for providing feedback. The list below is broken up into “Survey Tools” and “Audience Response Systems”. These are all relatively easy to use and have free versions available. A quick survey or poll could be used to check understanding or identify how a participant feels on a particular subject (often in real time). This helps the trainer to frame their feedback more effectively, based on the responses.

Survey Tools

Audience Response Systems

4. Concentrate on one ability at a time.

This approach is something used effectively in sporting environments. For instance, a tennis coach may focus on just one part of a player’s technique, such as the ball toss, rather than expecting their charge to change everything at once. Once they have mastered this first technique, they can the confidently move on to the next.

Concentrating on a single area of performance will help participants to reinforce practice more successfully and support them in maintaining their mental focus.

5. Provide a model or example to guide practice.

One of the best ways to let a candidate know what is expected, is to provide a model or an example. This is something that they can use to compare their own performance and judge when it is ready to be assessed. Where possible, try to make the example detailed enough to be relevant, but obscure enough in context so they just don’t copy it. For example, in a course on business planning, the trainer may provide a sample business plan for a Nuclear Power Plant. Participants will be able to follow the structure of the plan and identify what is required in each section. However, they are unlikely to be working in a Nuclear Power Plant, so they will still need to develop an original context as the basis of their own submission.

6. Constructive not just cosmetic.

There is a tendency at times to provide only positive comments or surface level feedback to avoid offending the candidate. However, “well done” and “good job” only go so far in providing the meaningful feedback participants need to act upon. It is important to identify what they did well and provide detailed feedback on what worked, so they can repeat it. Additionally, some well-timed pointers around what they could improve on or extend will give participants something to work on. It will also build their confidence in the assessment process, due it its robustness.