Receiving Effective Feedback

The key to receiving feedback in the clinical setting is to be cognizant of the challenges experienced by both the giver and the receiver of feedback. Per the below excerpt from Karen Mann, et al., in the 2011 article “Tensions in Informed Self-Assessment: How the Desire for Feedback and Reticence to Collect and Use It Can Conflict,” there are several contradictory emotions that a learner may feel when requesting and receiving feedback:

Tensions within self:

  • Wanting feedback, yet fearing disconfirming information
  • Recognizing the need for feedback, yet struggling to use it because of it incongruence with one's self-appraisal

Tensions between people:

  • Wanting to be able to question others and learn from feedback, yet not wanting to look incompetent or share areas of deficiency
  • Wanting feedback, yet not being able to pursue it or trust feedback that is received
  • Needing a positive and safe relationship to give/receive feedback, yet worrying about damaging the relationship with genuine feedback

Tensions in the learning environment:

  • Incongruence between the stated curriculum and the curriculum in-action
  • Engaging in authentic activities to inform self-assessment versus laying the evaluation game

As demonstrated above, “there are cognitive reasons, sociobiological reasons, and social reasons that render the task of generating accurate summative assessments of one’s own level of performance or ability particularly challenging” (Anderson, 2012). Taking note of the contradictory feelings that a learner faces when pursuing learning opportunities while attempting to cover deficiencies that may be relayed back during evaluations, attempt to incorporate the following to optimize your clinical performance in a formative manner:

1. Set learning goals: Formulate learning goals for yourself and share them with the educator early in the encounter to achieve both personal growth and indicate your willingness to receive feedback and desire for clinical improvement.

2. Play an active role: Seek feedback on a day-to-day basis to promote and demonstrate clinical improvement.

3. Seek clarification: If you receive feedback that is generalized and you are unsure of its meaning, ask for clarification and specific examples to ensure you understand what is being stated. Along the same lines, if you receive feedback that is negative, ensure that you understand what concerns are being verbalized and clarify how you can improve upon them. 

4. Do not be defensive: Ensure that you are in the right mindset for receiving feedback (perhaps request to reschedule if you are stressed or upset) and view it as a learning experience that is universally part of the learning process.

5. Collect all of the data: Compile feedback from a variety of sources to allow for continued shaping of your clinical abilities. Do not disregard feedback that is an outlier but view it in the greater context and seek areas of improvement.

6. Self-evaluate: Practice self-evaluation of your performance in the clinical setting prior to receiving feedback. Assess how your self-evaluation correlates with feedback received and self-reflect if there are discrepancies in the two feedback systems.

7. Invest in your education: Remember that receiving feedback and applying it effectively is a part of committing to the process of learning clinical skills and improving performance.

8. Create concrete plans: Collaborate with your educator to come up with concrete future steps to improve your performance

Works Cited

Anderson, Peter A. "Giving Feedback on Clinical Skills: Are We Starving Our Young?" Journal of Graduate Medical Education, vol. 4, no. 2, 2012, pp. 154-158.

Mann, Karen, et al. "Tensions in Informed Self-Assessment: How the Desire for Feedback and Reticence to Collect and Use It Can Conflict." Academic Medicine, vol. 86, no. 9, 2011, pp. 1120-1127.

Rider, Elizabeth A. "Feedback in Clinical Medical Education: Guidelines for Learners on Receiving Feedback." JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 274, no. 12, 1995, p. 938i.