How To Give Constructive Criticism
As an Assessor, Tutor or Trainer, a big part of your job is to give feedback to your learners. Feedback is part and parcel of your learner’s improvement and therefore a vital part of their progress to gain their qualification. There may be some areas in which your learner did well, and some areas, not so well. You will need to touch on these areas for improvement in the most efficient way – by giving constructive criticism.
The best way to give constructive criticism is by using ‘The Constructive Criticism Sandwich’ method. If you are already a qualified trainer, then it is likely that you will have come across this method before. But for those of you that aren’t, we hope you are hungry because we have a rebranded sandwich just for you…
The Constructive Criticism Sandwich
Yes, that’s right. The Constructive Criticism Sandwich (or more commonly known as, The Praise Sandwich). It looks a little something like this:
(Yes, we know that’s a burger, not a sandwich…)
You will be giving feedback to your candidates after every single assessment. The sandwich method is especially useful when you are still getting to know your learners in the first few assessments. However, you will find that it’s best practice to use this method all the time. If you jump straight into the criticism after an observation, you may come across as rude, especially if your learner doesn’t know you that well yet. I mean, honesty is the best policy, yes, but you want to get along with your learners, right?
1. Positive Comments
So, more on the method itself. It’s important to always start with positive comments on what you have just assessed. This isn’t to ‘soften the blow’ on your criticism, it’s the truth about their performance. Tell them what you liked about what you just saw. These positive comments should allow your learner to relax and understand that you aren’t there to test them but to help and support them.
2. Give Praise
Give your learners praise for their strengths. If you have assessed them before and they have improved on something you once criticised them for, you can praise them for their improvements. Don’t do this just for the sake of it – praise where praise is due. Praising them for something that isn’t legitimate will just devalue your comments.
3. Give Criticism
After you’ve showered them with positive comments and praise, you can start providing the not-so-positive feedback, i.e the criticism. These will be the things you weren’t so happy with during the assessment that you feel the learner can improve on.
It’s important not to be too vague at this point. The more detailed the feedback, the more actionable it becomes. You should understand your learner’s needs, capabilities and their situation as there are some things which won’t work for them. Just as an example, advising a learner who struggles with reading to read a long blog just simply isn’t do-able. However, if you were to advise them to watch a YouTube tutorial on the matter, they would be able to do that.
4. Reiterate Positive Comments
Once you have discussed your learners areas for improvement with them, you can remind them of their strengths. At this point, you should be motivating and reassuring them that you are confident that they can improve in their role. It’s fine to reiterate what you have already said, you don’t need to make up new things to say.
5. Offer Support
Now is the time where you will offer support to your learners in their areas for improvement. Perhaps you think they need more training in a certain area. Tell them your thoughts on how they can improve and offer that training and support to them.
In any event, you are not trying to mask over the criticism, but instead, you are offering support and motivation. Even just by providing your learner with recommendations, they will have a strong call-to-action. You want the person to act on what you have shared, not procrastinate.
Do you get why it’s a sandwich now? ‘Praise-Improvement-Praise’, much like ‘Bread-Filling-Bread’…
Some people dislike the sandwich (or burger, whatever you want to call it) method. They say that it’s unnecessary to praise someone just for the sake of it. However, the point of praising someone isn’t to butter them up for what’s to come. Some Assessors can be too quick to criticise, and this downplays what your learner is doing well and the efforts they have put into their work. It doesn’t do any harm to support your learner’s hard work!