Module One has highlighted the emphasis the SPEF-R © places on providing students with feedback.. This is done through both the provision of

  • ratings
  • qualitative comments and recommendations.

It follows then that the quality of this feedback is important if students are going to optimise their learning during their practice placement experiences.

Giving effective feedback is challenging!

The provision of effective feedback however has long been associated with concerns for both educators and students (Gibbs and Simpson, 2004). You will probably be able to identify with some of the following issues and frustrations.

Educators' concerns: providing feedback can be

  • time consuming
  • repetitious
  • unlikely to be acted on
  • difficult to give in a constructive and tactful way when performance is poor

Students' concerns: feedback provided can be

  • unclear
  • demoralising
  • irrelevant
  • untimely

What features of feedback are associated with positive student learning outcomes?

Because feedback has been recognised as such a potentially powerful learning tool, much study has been done to identify the attributes of effective feedback.

Think how you might incorporate the following features of effective feedback in your practice.

  • Sufficient feedback is provided - both often enough and in enough detail.
  • Feedback focuses on students' performance, on their learning and on actions under their control, rather than on the students themselves and on their characteristics.
  • Feedback is timely in that it is received by students while it still matters to them and in time for them to pay attention to further learning or receive further assistance.
  • Feedback is appropriate to the purpose of the learning experience and to the relevant criteria for success.
  • Feedback is appropriate in relation to students' understanding of what they are supposed to be doing.
  • Feedback is received and understood by students
  • Feedback is acted upon by students

(Gibbs and Simpson, 2004)

As you continue through this training package you will find a variety of practical ideas and suggestions to help you strengthen your skills in providing effective feedback. Of particular value is the concept of a 'feedback cycle' which provides a framework for incorporating many of the features of effective feedback outlined above. It will be explained next.

References

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. Retrieved 25 February, 2008, from http://www.csueastbay.edu/wasc/pdfs/End%20Note.pdf

Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004/2005). Conditions under which Assessment Supports Student Learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Issue 1, pp. 3-31.

A Practice Framework - The Feedback Cycle

How can I encourage my student to 'take on' the information I am giving him?

The Feedback Cycle (Price & Donovan, 2006) combines many of the features of effective feedback into a practice framework. It is very applicable to occupational therapy practice placement experience and aligns well with the features of the SPEF-R©.

The feedback cycle emphasises the importance of students understanding and engaging with both the evaluation criteria and feedback in an ongoing way to enhance learning. Consequently you are encouraged to start this process from the very beginning of your student's practice placement. It is not meant only to apply to times of formal evaluation, but to all the opportunities you have to focus your student's attention on what you are hoping he will learn, and how he's performing throughout the practice placement.

You will find the 'basics' of this model presented below with examples specifically targeted to occupational therapy practice placement. We'll start by looking at the cycle as a whole, then systematically explore each process with ideas that make it practical.

The Feedback Cycle

As you can see the feedback cycle incorporates four processes.

  1. Having explicit criteria and standards. The SPEF-R© provides this foundation, and it is further strengthened by your own customised examples.
  2. Encouraging students to engage actively with the criteria and standards. This can begin during orientation and continue throughout the practice placement, informally as opportunities naturally arise, and more formally during supervision and at times of evaluation.
  3. Facilitating feedback processes, including practice educator and peer feedback and self-assessment.
  4. Encouraging active engagement with the feedback. Your student may need you to structure activities to assist him to take on board feedback and to 'action' behaviours/activities that grow from reflecting on and understanding the feedback given.

Reference

Price, M., & O'Donovan, B. (2006). Improving performance through enhancing student understanding criteria and feedback. In C. Bryan & K. Clegg (Eds.), Innovative Assessment in Higher Education (pp. 100-109). London: Routledge p.107.

The Feedback Cycle in Practice: Step One

How can I apply this framework during my student's practice placement?

Now that you have a basic understanding of the framework, let's unwrap each process and see how it could be applied specifically to occupational therapy student practice.
 

1. Having explicit criteria and standards.

The SPEF-R© already provides this foundation. You will strengthen this process even further with your own customised item examples. Your examples highlight what you consider is crucial in your workplace, and ensures that the criteria are relevant.

The Feedback Cycle in Practice: Step Two

2. Encouraging students to engage actively with the criteria and standards.

Engagement with criteria and standards can begin during orientation. Specific ideas are found in the diagramme below, and are expanded upon later in the module. Encouraging your student to engage with the criteria and standards then continues throughout the practice placement. This can occur informally as opportunities naturally arise, and more formally during supervision and at times of evaluation.

The Feedback Cycle in Practice: Step Three

3. Feedback processes, including practice educator and peer feedback and self evaluation.

Feedback too is an ongoing process. Usually it will involve yourself and ideally your student. You may or may not have access to other students to provide peer feedback. Some students may find evaluating their own performance uncomfortable. You may need to specify a focus to avoid very general observations being offered …"I think I did OK". e.g. You may ask him to identify three instances where he demonstrated sound communication skills. Remember if you are facilitating peer feedback that some preparatory information and modelling is required to avoid inappropriate feedback being given..

Asking your student to use the SPEF-R© to self evaluate at halfway and final evaluation can also be a very valuable learning process. Remember if you are facilitating peer feedback that some preparatory information and modelling is required to avoid inappropriate feedback being given.

The Feedback Cycle in Practice: Step Four

4. Encouraging active engagement with feedback.

Your student may need you to structure activities to assist him to engage with feedback. This helps to avoid the situation where practice educators feel frustrated that the time and effort they have spent providing quality feedback has been wasted, and their feedback ignored. Engaging your student with feedback can start even before the activity in question is carried out. You could ask your student to nominate the focus of feedback from a learning experience e.g. He may ask that feedback focuses on the clarity of information he provides to the service user. This way you will be concentrating on an area he is motivated by. At other times you may require that your student shows evidence that he has understood and is acting on the feedback that has been given.

A Feedback Formula

How should I word my feedback?

Obviously there is not one correct way to put feedback as perhaps the word formula may suggest. Nor does it mean that feedback is contrived. The following principles contained in the feedback formula however are widely accepted as being helpful in communicating what needs to be said in an effective and objective manner.

  • Address the work not the person.
  • Include terms such as 'evidence' and 'observed'.
  • Begin positively.
  • Use an encouraging expression, refer to a desirable outcome or use a passive voice e.g. it is generally considered
  • Offer explicit suggestions for improvement
  • Refer to consequences

Please refer to the feedback formula table which expands each principle with specific work place examples. Incorporating these principles into your feedback will help you to provide clear, encouraging and instructive information. They can also be particularly helpful in situations where your student may want to challenge what you are presenting.

Sometimes there can be a mismatch between how much feedback practice educators feel they have given, and how much information their students have recognised as feedback. It can be helpful, during discussions to overtly flag your comments as 'feedback' e.g. You have identified …. My key feedback is, I noticed….

While some examples have been added to the feedback table to clarify each principle it can be beneficial to think of and record examples that fit your particular workplace. This may help the process become quicker and feel more natural for you. You are able to download the feedback formula table in Word which allows you to add your own examples.

View a vignette of a practice educator using a combination of educator, peer and student self evaluation.

Notice the variety of strategies used to actively engage the students in the learning and feedback process.
The vignette runs approx 2 minutes.

Use the activity sheet to help you get the most from the vignette