Questions about feedback

Answer to "How do we define feedback today?"

Feedback in medical education has been defined as the information describing students’ or house officers’ performance in a given activity that is intended to guide their future performance in the same activity. The steps of feedback used to be described as:

  • Assessment of learner performance

  • Conversation about performance

  • Guidance on performance improvement


But, older definitions focus almost entirely on teacher skills and behaviours. Expert educators have begun to question these definitions of feedback and described processes. Feedback that does not result in learner behaviour change or performance improvement is no longer considered to be effective feedback, regardless of teacher skills in giving feedback. Newer concepts of feedback include:

  • Perspectives that the importance of feedback lies in its impact on recipients and not how teachers provide feedback

  • Feedback conversations are increasingly viewed as complex, social interactions

  • Until learners act on feedback, the feedback loop is not considered complete

  • The learning culture at institutions is thought to play a significant role in influencing the quality and impact of feedback



Bing-You RG and Trowbridge RL (2009) ‘Why medical educators may be failing at feedback’, JAMA, 302(12), pp. 1330–1331.

Boud, D. (2015) ‘Feedback: ensuring that it leads to enhanced learning’, Clinical Teacher, 12(1), pp. 3–7.

Boud, D. and Molloy, E. (2013) Feedback in higher and professional education: understanding it and doing it well. Routledge.

Eva, K. W., Armson, H., Holmboe, E., Lockyer, J., et al. (2012) ‘Factors influencing responsiveness to feedback: on the interplay between fear, confidence, and reasoning processes’, Advances in Health Sciences Education, 17(1), pp. 15–26.

van de Ridder, J. M. M., Stokking, K. M., McGaghie, W. C. and ten Cate, O. T. J. (2008) ‘What is feedback in clinical education?’, Medical Education, 42(2), pp. 189–197.

Watling, C. J. (2014) ‘Unfulfilled promise, untapped potential: Feedback at the crossroads’, Medical Teacher, 36(8), pp. 692–697.

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