Constructive feedback

General Description of the Module:

When working with others, many times there are situations where one needs to provide or receive feedback, criticism or deal with unpleasant situations. During this module, you will find out some of the most effective ways to deal with such situations and have an opportunity to try solving them yourselves.

Activity: Feedback

Specific Objectives:

  • To learn about the rules of providing constructive feedback.
  • To practice feedback providing and receiving skills.

Duration: 30 minutes

Resources: Feedback activity sheets, pens.

Description of the activity:

  1. Short discussion: What is feedback? Gather a few examples. Does anyone know what constructive feedback is? It is important to understand that there are certain principles for providing constructive feedback. Read these principles and try to come up with an example after each one.
    • Provide feedback on changeable things. The value of feedback to another person is in that other person then being able to modify his/her behaviour if he/she wants to. Reactions to things that can’t be changed are not usually helpful.
    • Be specific. Provide feedback by quoting and giving examples of what you are referring to.
    • Talk About Positives Too. A good rule is start off with something positive. This helps put the person at ease. It also lets them "see" what success looks like and this helps them to take the right steps next time.
    • Provide Specific Suggestions. Make sure you both know what needs to be done to improve the situation. The main message should be that you care and want to help the person grow and develop. Set goals and make plans to monitor and evaluate progress.
    • Limit Your Focus. A feedback session should discuss no more than two issues. Any more than that and you risk the person feeling attacked and demoralized.
    • Use "I" Statements. Give the feedback from your perspective. This way you avoid labeling the person. Say, "I was angry and hurt when you criticized my report in front of my boss" rather than "You were insensitive yesterday."
    Although knowing how to provide constructive feedback is essential, receiving constructive criticism can also be a challenge. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of receiving feedback:
    • Practice active listening. Feedback, however painful, is truly a gift so treat the ‘giver’ appropriately. While receiving feedback, maintain good eye contact and keep your body language open, summarize what you heard and ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand.
    • Evaluate it, slowly. Just as you shouldn’t immediately reject feedback, you shouldn’t automatically accept it either. Get in the practice of evaluating the feedback slowly. Chew on it for a day or more. Does the criticism seem true; is it something you already knew was a limitation? Does the giver have expertise or credibility to make their observation? Have other people said similar things to you?
    • Be mindful. Develop awareness around the areas that you have received feedback or criticism about. Look for opportunities to stop doing or start doing critiqued behaviours. If you feel the criticism was justified and you are better off for it, don’t forget to close the loop and share your progress with the feedback giver.
  2. Working in pairs: make sure every pair has two cards with feedback situations. Take turns and provide feedback according to the situation in your card using the constructive feedback rules. If it helps, first think about and write down an opening sentence before reading it to your peer before entering into a discussion. Change your roles for the next scenario.

Suggested questions for discussion:

How did it feel to receive feedback?
How did it feel to provide feedback?
Was it easy/difficult to apply the constructive feedback rules?

After the activity:

After completing the activity, take some time to reflect on your experience. Think about or write down answers to these reflection points:

  • Did I learn something new? If yes, what?
  • What skills did I improve?
  • How could I apply those skills or knowledge in my life? (Think of a few examples).

Suggestion and tips for facilitation:

Please feel free to adapt the scenario or activity to suit your student’s age and learning styles

This module is closely related to the Solving disagreements and Teamwork modules.

SCENARIO No. 1
Feedback giver:
You had to do a group project for a lesson. Your classmate, who is in the group with you has been very late to submit his/her part and even though they did a good job on their part, all of the team members received lower grades for the task.
Feedback receiver:
You have been preparing a presentation together with your classmates for a lesson. One of them wants to talk to you after a lesson.
Your feedback: Your reaction to feedback:
SCENARIO No. 2
Feedback giver:
You are a director of a company. Your assistant lately seems forgetful – he forgot to send you an important file yesterday and missed a meeting a few days ago. You had to explain yourself to an important client because of that.
Feedback receiver:
You work as an assistant at a company. Your boss invited you to their office to talk about something.
Your feedback: Your reaction to feedback:
SCENARIO No. 3
Feedback giver:
You are creating a presentation for a lesson together with your classmate. They prepared their part of the presentation and it uses lots of colours, different fonts, text sizes. You think it should be more serious and well presented, as you will be graded for the presentation as well.
Feedback receiver:
You have to prepare a presentation for a lesson together with your classmate. You just showed them your part and they have something to say to you.
Your feedback: Your reaction to feedback:
SCENARIO No. 4
Feedback giver:
Your co-worker has been late to work almost everyday for the past two weeks. You have to take their calls when they’re late and your boss is angry because you miss some of your own calls.
Feedback receiver:
You work as a customer service representative. One of your co-workers asked if you could talk during a coffee break.
Your feedback: Your reaction to feedback: