Giving feedback is a powerful way of improving the performance of peers and students. Many find it difficult to construct and deliver feedback that impacts others appropriately and profoundly. The truth is this, consistent practice and skilful delivery of feedback will change the course of our peers and students’ careers.  
Feedback needs to accomplish two objectives. Firstly, FEED the participants by structuring written or verbal feedback effectively. Secondly, give BACK to the participants by creating quality feedback, that is relevant, meaningful and applicable for easy implementation. 
Here are four keys to structuring effective written and verbal feedback that FEEDs participants. 
  1. Use the name of the person you’re giving feedback too. This personalises your thoughts adding meaning to your ideas. The individual receiving the feedback will recognise that you have noticed them and will in turn experience a lift in their esteem. If it is written feedback, make sure that you spell their name correctly. ‘Kristy’ may close to ‘Kirsty’, but the lack of attention to detail will create a disconnection with your feedback. Similarly, if the feedback is being provided verbally, take the time to check that you are properly pronouncing their name.   
  2. Identify positive value in the work the individual has completed or attempted. Regardless of the result, they have invested time and energy into their submission, so it is important to honour that. Psychologically we know that positive reinforcement results in greater commitment improved outputs and a deeper change in individuals. A consequence of expressing positive value in someone’s effort and contribution, is the increased likelihood that they will engage more strongly in the feedback process. Whilst this is part of the introductory aspect of your feedback, it is no less important in building buy-in to what you are advising. 
  3. Give specific examples of actions, statements, or work completed. This will give them context and help them to identify the qualities of ideal performance. Where someone has delivered a high-quality performance or product, providing specific examples will encourage them to repeat their actions. Additionally, where improvement has been identified, clearly pinpointing the place for improvement, including what a best practice performance should look like, can clarify the next steps to be taken. 

  4. State a positive direction using the name of the individual to conclude the feedback. This affirms their effort, demonstrates the value in their contribution and increases the potential for action to be taken. 
For who (use their name, spelt and pronounced correctly.)
Excellence (Identify a positive value in the completed/attempted work.)
Example (Be specific in the examples used.)
Direction (Give positive direction to the individual)
Using an effective structure though, is only half the story. The quality within the structure is very important. This is where you give BACK to the participants, through genuine, authentic feedback that builds, is constructive, is clear, and identifies opportunities. 
Following are four keys to giving BACK meaningful, helpful, and encouraging feedback. 
  1. When being specific with examples, they need to be easily identifiable. Think of them as being concrete building blocks to success. By supporting the feedback with relevant examples, stories and anecdotes, which speak directly to the subject being discussed, you will increase the engagement of the individual in the feedback process. If an action or practice infers either a good or bad outcome, make sure the feedback recipient clearly understands the link between the action and outcome.
  2. Be constructive and avoid criticism. Appropriately building the esteem of those around you will yield better productivity and will support the growth of deeper relationships. When individuals hear of an area of improvement, their initial emotional responses can sometimes disrupt the message. So, be the architect of a positive flow of feedback. Constructive, tangible and achievable suggestions will soothe the emotions, but also serve as advice for immediate implementation. This will allow for a deeper response and ultimately stronger improvement. 
  3. Always clarify areas of improvement and create a pathway to success for the individuals.  The pathway needs to be clearly marked and the journey identifiable. Be careful with the delivery of the feedback and attentive to the emotional response of the recipient. Framing these improvements in a way that connects to their own needs, desires and sense of self, will increase the chance that they will be applied. For instance, recognising their desire to achieve a work-life balance could be helpful in providing feedback on how to increase productivity. e.g. “if you are able to use this work process or structure, you will be take less work home and you spend more quality time with your family”. 
  4. Open future opportunities or clarify expectations. There will always be a next step. Sometimes your peers or students cannot see it through the mist of possibilities. Be balanced and provide support for those with areas of improvement and let them see the pathway to a brighter future. For the high achievers, identify extension opportunities. For those individuals who deliver excellence, develop a process of activities and experiences, which could lead to extra qualifications, career advancement, and/or increased responsibility. Remember, your organisation needs these high achievers and stretching their capacity, will keep them motivated. 
Building Blocks (Use concrete easily identifiable examples.)
Architect (As the architect, be constructive in the way improvement is suggested.)
Continual Improvement (Always identify ways to improve.)
Keep on going (Create opportunities for the next level of achievement.)
Regular feedback is imperative in participant centred learning. Increasing confidence and capacity will build their esteem. And when you build their esteem, you will build their future. Feedback that FEEDs and gives BACK will achieve both.  
By Geoff Cake
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