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Giving feedback to medical students and trainees: rules and realities
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  1. John Launer
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Launer, Professional Development Department, Health Education England, Stewart House, 32 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DN, UK: john.launer{at}nwl.hee.nhs.uk

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One of the commonest requests that medical educators get from clinical colleagues is to run training sessions on how to give feedback to students and trainees. Personally, I have a mixed reaction when I receive an invitation to do this. It is always good to know that clinicians are taking their teaching role seriously. At the same time, the requests often seem to be based on a naïve assumption that the skill of giving feedback to trainees can be mastered just by learning some simple educational techniques, rather than being developed as part of an ethos of trust, respect and mutual challenge. To improve the quality of feedback, you really need to address both.

Guidance from the literature on giving feedback is fairly consistent.1 The purpose of feedback is to promote self-regulation in trainees, through helping them to recognise any discrepancies between what they are doing and what they ought to do.2 There are various sets of rules for giving feedback. The best-known are “Pendleton's rules”, named after the psychologist who helped to formulate them.3 According to these rules, feedback should always follow certain fixed stages: first, the learner and then the teacher …

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