Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback

Feedback magazine cover issue 19

Image by City On Fire via Flickr

From time to time, you will need to give and receive constructive feedback. This can be a daunting process, and you can reduce stress and potential conflict by learning and practicising new skills. You can assist others to learn these new skills and practice them so they can improve their own and others performance.

Aim: Participants will use their knowledge and skills to give honest and respectful feedback to improve performance.

By the end of this session participants will be able to...

Knowledge: Explain the concepts and principles of constructive feedback.
Application: Give and receive constructive feedback to improve performance.
Caring: Be honest and respectful.
Human Dimension: Reflect on their own performance and work collaboratively with others.
Learning how to learn: Continue to learn more about giving and receiving constructive feedback.

Integrate: Integrate your experiences and reflections in a practice portfolio.



What are your understandings of the following terms:

Positive reinforcement

NB: You may like to start a collaborative document or wiki so participants can share their ideas and resources. If you would like to know more about Wikis CLICK HERE. To start a wiki go to

What are the key benefits of giving and receiving constructive feedback?

What is good practice in giving and receiving constructive feedback?

Benefits of Constructive Feedback

Unlike critique, which is just negative feedback, constructive criticism includes timely and specific negative feedback with useful strategies for skill improvement, support and encouragement.


Principles of Constructive Feedback:

Participants are invited to watch and discuss the following resources. 

Principles of Constructive Feedback

More on Constructive Feedback

Do you know of other resources to share with the group?  You can add them to a wiki or as a comment to this page.
Give and Receive Constructive Feedback to Improve Performance

Now it is time to practice. Participants may like to watch and learn from these video examples.
How to give negative feedback in the workplace


I have learnt to give and receive feedback using some very easy methodology.

EPM: Empathy, Pinpoint, Move on

Emphasis to your students the need for both honesty and respect.

Firstly, start your feedback with something that demonstrates empathy for the receiver. It may be something like, "Sam, I know you have been very busy over the last few weeks."

This helps set a positive tone and creates a collaborative mood.

Now, you need to pinpoint the very thing that is not working. Please do not criticise the person, focus on the process or product that is not working. You may like to say something like, "Last week your budget report was late." Notice, I have chosen a part of the process that is lacking. I could have said "Sam, you were late with the budget report", but that has an element of blame and we are trying to be constructive.

Now, move on, by asking directly for a way of moving forward. "Sam, could we work out a way of balancing your work demands and meeting key deadlines?" In this example,  I have left it open for Sam and I to discuss improving his performance in this one aspect of his work. There is no blame and only an opportunity to move forward together.

What if you are receiving the feedback? Well, the four A's are valuable.

Agree: Firstly, agree with something the other person has said. This sets a positive tone. Suppose Sam said to me, "Yes, I have been very busy lately." That helps to demonstrate respect for the givers point of view.

Ask: Ask questions to help clarify exactly what is wrong. Suppose Sam has some questions for me. They may be about the type of report, the size and detail of the report, the deadline for the report, or the communication processes around presenting reports. He may have said, "Are you talking about the September budget report?" The more we can clarify the facts, the more likely we can come to an agreeable solution.

Analyse: Think carefully about the feedback you have received, and write it down as soon as you have the opportunity. Consider, if it was justified, and be honest with yourself.

Action: Take action to respond to the feedback. Put right what needs to be acted on. Be positive and professional about your own performance.

Participants are now invited to practice their new skills.


You can make up the scenarios or you can take some suggestions from experts.

Giving and Receiving Feedback.pdf
Take some time for participants reflection.

What have participants learnt about giving and receiving constructive feedback?

Do they want to add to the concepts or principles discussed above?

Now, put your participants  to the test.

Design a short evaluative activity, and have your participants assess each other, as part of the assessment, they should verbally give feedback to their peers. Once again, we suggest you take time for participants to reflect on the experience and add to their knowledge base.

We hope this works well for you and we look forward to your feedback. Constructive, of course!!!

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Comment by Diana Ayling on June 13, 2012 at 9:03

Comment by Diana Ayling on June 28, 2010 at 16:41

Retrieved from

Dr. Peter Honey

Whenever you criticize an action someone has taken you have given them a learning opportunity. Criticism is a legitimate form of feedback that needs to be balanced with the other side of the same coin; praise. It is the contrast between praise and criticism that makes both so effective. If you always praise and never criticize, people get used to it and come to expect it and the praise loses its potency. The same applies the other way round. If you over-indulge in criticism, to the detriment of praise, you get a reputation for your 'bark being worse than your bite'.

One school of thought argues for a sandwich system where you start and finish with some praise and in between, as the 'filling', you have some criticism. In practice the problem with this is that it is too transparent. Everyone knows the real purpose is to criticize and the downgrade the praise on the principle that everything before "but" is nonsense. This is a wicked waste of praise; a rare enough commodity without tarnishing it with criticism. A better plan is, therefore, not to mix the two and to criticize and praise when each are deserved.

An obvious peril with criticism is that people will take offense and become defensive. This is particularly so if the criticism is perceived to be unjust and/or to be mistaken. The problem with defensiveness is that it saps the energy needed to convert the criticism into lessons learned. Of course there is supposed to be such a thing a constructive criticism. Whilst it is certainly true that criticism given skillfully is more likely to be regarded as helpful, it is always the perception of the person that determines whether it is constructive or destructive. You can help to tip the balance toward constructive criticism by adopting the following guidelines.

Always criticize the action not the person. This is more dispassionate and less accusational. Never criticize the person; merely something he/she has done that doesn't meet with your approval.

Always give specifics and avoid sweeping generalizations. It is detailed examples that contain the seeds of learning.

Always give suggestions on what the person can do to improve. Your ideas on possible ways forward are what makes criticism constructive.

Always invite the other person to join you in thinking of ideas to improve the action, and avoid monologues where you do all the talking.

Always criticize assertively in an honest straightforward way. Avoid half truths and innuendos.

Always criticize in private and never in front of others. Public criticisms are counter-productive. They run the risk of humiliating the person and the bystanders tend to take sides.

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