Effective feedback and positive communication – building educational alliance

Presenter: Dr Joan Li

Team: Claire Aland, Gillian Mcllwain and students

Have you been concerned with the low response rates and the negative, destructive responses in the SECaT? Have you been frustrated with the passive scepticism, the distrust and the borderline professional misbehaviour in some of the feedback? How can we encourage and engage students to provide effective, constructive feedback in a timely matter that is beneficial for teachers and students?


Feedback is a major driver of effective learning and teaching across all fields. The value of feedback provided to students by teachers is well established. But evidence suggest that effective and constructive feedback from students to teachers is equally valuable (Ahmed AI Ansari 2019; Wolfram Rollett 2021). In higher education, the focus has been on teachers ‘giving’ student feedback rather than ‘receiving’ feedback. However, the effect of any forms of feedback on students would be greater if teachers also demonstrate their willingness to receive, and act on, feedback.

Professional graduate entry courses, such as the Medicine Program, with its constructivist underpinnings, encourage students to collaborate as partners in their learning and therefore students’ experiences, opinions, and perceptions become key sources of information on teaching. The process of giving feedback becomes, for students, one of construction of knowledge and formation of their professional identity.

One key message is that feedback must be timely if it is to meaningfully contribute to teaching and learning. Another is that it must be bi-directional, a dialogue rather than monologue. Both of these are directly related to trust – if we want students and teachers to engage with feedback constructively, then both must trust the feedback process.

We found that not only the process of gathering and incorporating student feedback helps to improve the structure and quality of the course in a timely manner it also shapes the culture and the relationship within the classroom in which students and teachers value each others' perspectives; ultimately it builds strong educational alliance. Our findings have broad implications for all courses, particularly large cohort where student engagement is problematic.




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