Questions about feedback

Answer to "What are strategies to enhance feedback seeking among learners?"

Feedback-seeking behaviour is a proactive search for feedback information, ideally from multiple sources. Feedback seeking, particularly active seeking of constructive feedback, can have beneficial effects on:

  • Performance

  • Learning and creativity

  • Adaptation and socialisation


Feedback seeking is a desired characterisitic of self-directed and lifelong learning

Three main motives for feedback-seeking behavior have been described:

  • Need to obtain useful information

  • Need to preserve or enhance one’s own ego

  • Need to defend or enhance the impression others hold of the person


Feedback seeking behaviour can be influenced by multiple factors:

  • Characteristics of the feedback provider

  • Manner of feedback delivery

  • Perceived intent of the feedback provider when providing feedback, especially constructive feedback

  • Characteristics of the feedback seeker such as desire for accurate self-assessment and motivation for self-improvement

  • Relationship between the feedback seeker and provider

  • Perception of threat or benefit to self-esteem

  • Goal-orientation of learners. Individuals with performance goal-orientation focus on how they appear to others and may reject feedback on areas for improvement. Those with learning goal-orrientation seek mastery and view failure as an opportunity to learn.


Moving from individual to institutional level, the learning culture is likely to be a significant influence on feedback seeking. Strategies that can promote feedback seeking by learners include:

  • Expectations from institutions that learners should seek feedback

  • A learning culture that promotes learning goal-orientation rather than performance-goal orientation

  • Training in seeking goal-directed feedback, and in fostering feedback-seeking

  • Trusting, supportive teacher-learner relationships

  • Training in receiving and accepting constructive feedback

  • Emphasis on self-assessment and self-reflection on performance

  • Encouraging learners to seek feedback from multiple sources

  • Inculcating a spirit of self-awareness among learners



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Crommelinck, M. and Anseel, F. (2013) ‘Understanding and encouraging feedback-seeking behaviour: a literature review’, Medical Education, 47(3), pp. 232–241.

Gaunt, A., Patel, A., Fallis, S., Rusius, V., et al. (2017) ‘Surgical Trainee Feedback-Seeking Behavior in the Context of Workplace-Based Assessment in Clinical Settings’, Academic Medicine, 92(6), pp. 827–834.

Gaunt, A., Patel, A., Rusius, V., Royle, T. J., et al. (2017) ‘“Playing the game”: How do surgical trainees seek feedback using workplace-based assessment?’, Medical Education, 51(9), pp. 953–962.

Molloy, E. and Boud, D. (2013) ‘Seeking a different angle on feedback in clinical education: the learner as seeker, judge and user of performance information’, Medical Education, 47(3), pp. 227–229.

Teunissen, P. W., Stapel, D. A., van der Vleuten, C., Scherpbier, A., et al. (2009) ‘Who Wants Feedback? An Investigation of the Variables Influencing Residents’ Feedback-Seeking Behavior in Relation to Night Shifts’, Academic Medicine, 84(7), p. 910.

VandeWalle, D. and Cummings, L. L. (1997) ‘A test of the influence of goal orientation on the feedback-seeking process’, Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(3), pp. 390–400.