Constructive Feedback - Top Tips

One of the important skills that the mentors learn as part of the Debate-Ed programme is how to give constructive and positive feedback to students.

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Throughout the workshops, the students are encouraged to volunteer answers, speak up in front of their peer group and, through trial and error, to improve their skills. All of these activities can be very daunting so it is important that they receive positive reinforcement at every turn, whether this is simply an encouraging smile or prizes such as sweets.

As well as providing positive reinforcement, it is important for the mentors to give the students constructive feedback in order to facilitate their learning. This should be given throughout the lesson as well as at the end of activities.

Of course, the ability to effectively provide constructive feedback is a key skill in many walks of life as it helps ensure that the people around you know what is expected of them and also feel appreciated and acknowledged. Consequently, I thought it would be helpful to share some top tips on how to give constructive feedback.

DO praise improvement

It is important to acknowledge and praise improvement as this helps reinforce the positive behaviour making repetition more likely. You should always be able to sincerely praise something about the person’s performance so make sure you do so.

DO suggest one or two ways to improve

It is useful for people to have at least one thing they can actively work to improve on. However, don’t be tempted to list numerous ways to improve as there is only so much that anyone can take in and actively work on at any one time and, also listing more than one or two flaws can make the student feel like they didn’t do anything right.

DON’T give vague or unclear feedback

If the feedback is vague or unclear (eg It just could have been better), then it is difficult for the listener to understand what problems they need to fix or how they might go about this. Make sure when giving feedback that you can identify one thing they need to do better and perhaps have an example of this (eg Your speech trailed off at the end which lessened the impact of what you were saying. Next time, make sure you have a solid conclusion to finish with).