Receiving feedback is essential for learning and perfecting any skill. For many activities, feedback comes from the consequences of our actions. A novice skier might learn to position their torso correctly and bend their knees to the right degree to avoid falling. However, such trial and error learning is relatively inefficient. It would be preferable for the skier to have an instructor who does the following:

  1. Identifies the skills needed to improve, given the skier’s current performance level.
  2. Instructs the student about the skill to be practiced.
  3. Has the skier perform the skill.
  4. Provides feedback so that the skier can repeat, incorporating the feedback.

Although all the steps listed above are essential for deliberate practice, this article focuses on one critical aspect: Feedback.

Before discussing the components of effective feedback, it is important to realize that obtaining usable feedback in psychotherapy is problematic. In typical practice the therapist has to extract information from the client’s behavior in the session. Unfortunately, research has shown that the therapist’s understanding of various aspects of the session, the client’s progress, and the quality of therapy often is flawed—this is not surprising, given the ambiguity of the information. Increasingly, routine outcome monitoring (ROM) is used by therapists, but these measures provide global information that is difficult to use to improve (similar to the feedback received when the skier falls—the skier did something wrong and it is up to them to figure out what went wrong by trial and error). Receiving timely and helpful feedback is necessary to improve and that is a vital component of Skillsetter.

With Skillsetter, the instructor (or supervisor or peers) is able to provide feedback about performance of particular skills, guided by a rubric for the skill. Instructors often ask about the characteristics of effective feedback; learning theory and research suggests the following principles.

4 Best Practices For Feedback While Using Skillsetter

1. Provide Prompt Feedback For Productive Learning

Feedback should be proximal to the performance. That is, the sooner the trainee receives the feedback, the more effective it will be. Instructors are notified by Skillsetter when the trainee has submitted a response for evaluation—quick turnaround is vital for effective learning.

2. Repetitive Correction

Feedback should be focused on the most important deficit in the response. Learners are able to change only one (possibly two) aspects of their response. So, resist the urge to point out everything the trainee could do differently. Deliberate practice is iterative, so you will have the opportunity to remark on other aspects to change as learning progresses.

3. Actionable Assessments

Feedback should be specific to something that the trainee can change. Global statements (e.g., “Good response”) are not useful, whether positive or negative. Specificity is essential to optimizing performance and learning. (e.g., “Response was too long. Practice saying the essence of what you want to say in 30 sec or less.”.)

4. Constructive Criticism Without Judgement

Comments on aspects of the response that were done well should be included (again, make them as specific as possible). Comments on aspects to improve should not be judgmental.

Giving feedback is a skill to be learned—it takes practice to provide quality, actionable feedback. As you use Skillsetter you will find that your feedback improves—and you may want a colleague to provide you some feedback on your feedback!