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Effective feedback: an essential skill
  1. Bob Klaber
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bob Klaber, Department of Paediatrics (St. Mary's), Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, St Mary's Hospital, 6-10 The Bays Building, 16 South Wharf Road, London W2 1PF, UK; robert.klaber{at}

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“Ultimately, feedback is about communication. The skills are generic: active listening; asking a balance of open, reflective, facilitating, and closed questions; challenging; and summarising. Giving feedback is not just to provide a judgment or evaluation. It is to provide insight. Without insight into their own strengths and limitations, trainees cannot progress or resolve difficulties”.1

Feedback is an essential part of education: without it learners cannot be sure of their progress nor of developmental opportunities they may have missed. So, developing the skills, techniques and behaviours that make up good feedback should be central to any training programme and an integral part of any healthcare team committed to improvement and change.

However, ensuring effective developmental feedback is a challenge and defining the skills and behaviours difficult. Feedback can mean many different things, for example, an informal comment in handover after a night-shift, a brief acknowledgement of a contribution, a formal work-place based assessment by a consultant supervisor after an operation or written comments from a patient's family. Although some differ in expectation and formality, each can have a significant impact on learning—if there is a responsive culture with a continuous desire to learn and develop. What ‘developmental’ refers to is feedback that can be used by the …

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