The Uncommon Art And Science Of Giving Feedback
The Bacal & Associates PocketBytes Series
722 St. Isidore Rd. • Casselman,...
 You’ve been doing a great job over the last year.
Notice that the feedback is very general here? There’s nothing
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Free partial preview of our newest release to help anyone, from parents to managers to training pros enhance their feedback skills to help others learn. You may "think" you know everything about feedback, but our bet? Probably not. Visit or click on the first page for more info or to purchase.

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The Uncommon Art And Science Of Giving Feedback Preview

  1. 1. The Uncommon Art And Science Of Giving Feedback The Bacal & Associates PocketBytes Series 722 St. Isidore Rd. • Casselman, ON., Canada, K0A 1M0 • (613) 764-0241 • Internet: • • Internet Site: • © Robert Bacal, 2013. Reproduction in any form is prohibited. For more information about our services and other publications & Help Cards, call at (613) 764-0241 or email us at: The Power of Feedback We know that for someone to improve their performance on ANY task, the learner; an employee, trainee, adult, or child, needs to know what s/he did well, and didn’t do well. The psy- chological research is absolutely clear. Feedback is ESSEN- TIAL for learning. Whether the performance is an artistic one, an athletic one or job-related, the principles are exactly the same. They apply equally to adults, and children. Feedback is the mechanism that provides the person with the information that is absolutely essential to better learning and performance. For Managers And Supervisors It’s a manager’s responsibility to organize and coordinate work to meet the goals of the work unit. To get work done properly, managers need to help employees understand what is required of them, and how to do it, to the satisfaction of the manager. Pro- viding feedback to employees is a basic and critical part of managing others. Not only is it a management responsibility, but effective feedback benefits the employee, manager and or- ganization through its power to improve performance. Remem- ber: Feedback is about helping someone learn. For Trainers And Group Leaders Most trainers know how important it is that learners receive feedback, but unfortunately, most trainers know only basic “rules’ of feedback. Without a better understanding of how feed- back works, even experienced trainers may be losing out on “learning efficiency”. For Parents and “Regular Folks” In the first five years of life, and often for long after, parents are the prime teachers of kids. Part of that is giving feedback to help children learn, from tying shoe laces, to how to interact with other kids. And of course, since we’re social beings, even regu- lar folks often help others learn, so understanding feedback can make the process much more effective, and a lot less “painful”. That’s because poor feedback can harm both learning and the motivation to learn. You CAN learn to give feedback to friends, your spouse and co-workers without pain and discomfort, and in a helping way. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad advice on giving feedback. Feedback is NOT a touchy-feely process that always has to fol- low touchy-feely rules. It’s a mechanism for improving perform- ance and even to help others become better human beings. The good news is that you don’t have to have a PhD in Psychol- ogy to become an effective feedback giver. We’re going to teach you just enough theory to understand the PRACTICE of giving effective feedback. Three Kinds Of Feedback Feedback serves three major functions: 1. To maintain and encourage EFFORT. 2. To help learners alter what they DO through providing in- formation about what they need to change to improve per- formance. 3. To enable learners to take what they’ve learned and per- form the task when you are not present. Since there are three functions for feedback, there are also three different kinds of feedback tied to each purpose. We’re going to look at the first two feedback forms, before tackling the third type a bit later. Emotionally Loaded Feedback (Attaboy, or Motiva- tional) Emotionally loaded feedback is intended to encourage EFFORT and MOTIVATION during learning. Positive emotionally loaded feedback tells the learner that you are happy with the person and his performance. Negative emotionally loaded feedback (criticism) tells the receiver that you are dissatisfied. Positive feedback can also be described as “Atta boy (or girl)”, feedback, because it is congratulatory, and recognizes the value of the effort during learning. Emotionally loaded feedback’s major function is motivational. By showing approval, recognizing good performance, and con- gratulating the learner on effective performance, you encourage effort and motivation to learn further AND use what they’ve learned (transfer of training). Not all affective feedback is positive, though. You can try to build a fire under the learner by sending the message you are un- happy with what he or she is doing. Rarely does that work. Why not? The more anxious and worried the learner, the less they are able to process and learn. So, generally, negative affectively loaded comments don’t work very well, compared to positive ones. Examples of Positive Affective Feedback  That’s great, John. You are picking this up very quickly.  Wow! Pretty soon you’re going to be doing this as if you’ve been doing it all your life.  I’m so impressed with how well you handled that tough situation with that last angry customer.  You should be proud of yourself about how well you are progressing. $13.95 Page 1 You can get your own copy of this tool for improving feedback here, and it's currently on sale.
  2. 2.  You’ve been doing a great job over the last year. Notice that the feedback is very general here? There’s nothing wrong with being more specific with motivational type feedback, and in fact you’ll see later that the more specific informational feedback (a second type) can also be motivating to learners. Re- member that we are trying to encourage the person learning to continue to work at the learning process, and ultimately to be mo- tivated to use what is learned even after the learning experience is over (when you aren’t there). Since learning can be frustrating the motivational component is really important to help the individual, again, adult, child, employee, student, to persevere. Examples of Negative Affective Feedback That Often De- Motivates  John, you aren’t trying hard enough. So, concentrate.  You really screwed that up.  It’s going to take forever to learn this at this rate.  It looks like you are giving up. You can see that these are much more likely to discourage the learner, not to mention increasing frustration and anger. People do say these kinds of things because THEY get frustrated with the slow learning process, and/or feel that motivation is improved by creating fear, and showing disapproval. That works very rarely, as we pointed out earlier. Fear and anxiety are the enemies of learn- ing. Points To Remember About Emotionally Loaded Feed- back  Since emotion loaded feedback lacks the details that are needed to help an employee LEARN specifics, it is best used in conjunction with “information loaded feedback”. By using both, you affect both the motivational side, and the “learning to perform side”.  Emotion loaded feedback can be general (That’s a great job, John) or specific; You did a great job dealing with that tough situation, John). Specific is better.  Emotion loaded feedback will work when the learner receiv- ing it perceives the recognition as sincere, informed, and accurate. If the learner sees it as false, empty, or overused, it is more likely to damage performance, since the person will feel manipulated, or even devalued by false feedback.  Emotion loaded feedback that is negative (e.g. That’s a terri- ble job) is relatively ineffective in addressing performance problems. While the hope is that the learner will “get on the ball”, this kind of criticism is more likely to create resentment and damage the relationship between feedback giver and feedback receiver.  This kind of feedback is more effective at MAINTAINING learner motivation levels than increasing it. That is, if it is ab- sent, the employee tends to become discouraged, unappreci- ated and devalued. To increase learner motivation you need to use other techniques, like focusing the learner on how it will feel to be able to accomplish the task, or having the learner visualize how it will FEEL to succeed.  Be alert to “praise inflation”. Information Loaded Feedback Information loaded feedback is much more specific and detailed. Its function is to TEACH, so learners develop the skills, knowledge, and understanding to improve performance. This kind of feedback helps people learn:  The specific behaviors and actions that they are doing well (and thus should continue doing).  The specific behaviors and actions that they are doing that could be improved (the things they can change to be better per- formers).  The impact of their actions on those around them. Both are required — knowing what to do and what not to do. Two Different Situations For Giving Information Loaded Feedback There are two different contexts in which we give feedback to build skills and knowledge. The first is when you are intentionally in- structing someone, and where the person has consented to be taught, and is participating in a learning experience on purpose. It also means you and the learner have some control over the learning interaction. You can stop the learner in “mid-performance”, so you can offer specific feedback on what he or she has just done, and even have the person modify and repeat the action to incorporate your suggestions. The second involves a situation where you want to give feedback on some behaviors that occur in the “world”, and where you aren’t instructing per se. So, for example, you might observe someone giving a speech to an audience, and feel you can help the person improve. It’s after the fact; you can’t very well interrupt to provide feedback during the presentation, neither can you control anything during the presentation. Feedback During Instruction: Techniques and Examples The best feedback during instruction occurs immediately after the specific “thing” the person is trying to learn. Imagine a task with a set of steps, like tying a necktie, or for children tying shoe laces. Because you can control the “practice”, you break down the task into the specific steps, show the learner (demonstrate) the overall process, then walk the person through each step, and have the per- son do each step in turn. As the learner tries each step for him/herself, you stop after each step, and guide the individual until the step can be done on its own. Then you go on to the next step. Example #1: OK, John, let’s see you give it a try. Let’s do it to- gether. Take the tie and make sure the narrower end comes down to your belly button. Cross the two ends of the tie so they…(1) John does the step. Good, John. One thing to watch out for is that you have the lengths just right, or else when you finish the tie, the narrower end is going to be too long and you will look dorky (2). You might want to have the wider end come down longer before you continue. See if you can fix it now. John fixes it (3). Excellent, that’s perfect because….Now let’s do © Robert Bacal, 2013. Reproduction in any form is prohibited. For more information about our services and other publications & Help Cards, call at (613) 764-0241 or email us at: Page 2