Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback

Terri Peters, tlp training

0 3 9 March 2021

This week's guest blog post is by Terri Peters. 

Keeping feedback constructive is the every-lesson task of adult foundational learning tutors and instructors. You create a positive experience in your programs. Constructive feedback boosts confidence for learners and provides the two-way communication that will keep them with you.

We all know that timely and focused feedback is best. But what do we mean by constructive? Constructive feedback’s purpose is to understand and engage with the learner. It’s not meant to be nit-picky, it’s meant to develop relationship.

Start by focusing on what people are doing right most of the time. Then provide constructive feedback about a single consistent issue. Learners are more likely to listen because they’ve heard lots of praise from you, already.

Keep things constructive with these tips:feedback

  • Praise first, always
  • Focus on one problem, not everything because that might feel intimidating
  • Use "I" statements to open dialogue, using "you" feels like blame to the other person and may shut down dialogue
  • Be specific - name the problem, briefly, and make 1 or 2 concrete positive suggestions for change
  • Don't be offended if learners don't make all the changes you suggest - trust them to listen and learn in their own time and keep on catching them doing it right!

By using “I” as the tutor or instructor, we show that we want to understand and have a dialogue with the learner, not a monologue about what “you/learner” got wrong. Below are some “I” sentence stems that will help you open that conversation with learners. Once we understand the learner’s thinking, our feedback becomes more specific and helpful. Now that’s constructive.

  • I noticed …
  • Tell me more about ...
  • I like how/when you ... because ...
  • I enjoyed … because …
  • I'm curious about ...
  • I'm intrigued by ...
  • I wondered …
  • I wasn’t sure about … because …
  • I think I'm confused. Could you explain …

This strategy works with any type of learning – about skills, communication, interpersonal relationships in class, etc. We also create rapport with learners by focusing on what they’re doing right and opening feedback with “I” statements. Rapport leads to learner retention so the learner can move closer to their goals. The great news is this strategy boosts everyone’s confidence to stay engaged and move forward.

Do you have a great “I” sentence stem you can share? I’ve only given the tip of the iceberg above.

Thanks for sharing!

Terri Peters
TLP Training


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