One of the hardest parts of being an NVQ Assessor, Tutor or Trainer, is when you have to give constructive feedback to your learners. Although it is considered as part of the learning process, knowing how to express your concerns in a sensitive manner can be challenging.
If you come across too harshly, your words of wisdom are likely to be dismissed immediately by your learner, which will in turn prevent them from progressing in their qualification. On the other end of the scale, if you give feedback in a way that is too sympathetic, your learner may not understand the impact of your criticism.
Performance feedback is very important and can be given in two main ways: via constructive feedback, or through praise and criticism. The most effective way to give constructive criticism is to use the ‘praise sandwich’ which is designed to enhance the performance of your learner, and improve their skills.
The Constructive Criticism Sandwich
Let’s go into a bit more detail about this constructive criticism model. The idea behind it is that you ‘sandwich’ criticism between two compliments, so that the learner accepts the criticism more easily.
Here is a visual representation of the Constructive Criticism Sandwich:
As you can see, you are best starting off with a positive comment, and then ‘sandwiching’ the criticism around more praise. Constructive feedback is based on factual observations that you have carried out and when this is delivered in the right way, the feedback helps to strengthen the working relationship with your learner. So how do you deliver the bad news? Here is the process that we would recommend following:
Start with a positive
It is always best to start giving feedback with a positive comment. This step isn’t just designed to mitigate the criticism, it is there to help build the relationship with your learner and tell them the truth about their performance. If you deliver the bad news immediately, your learner is likely to feel anxious and think that you are not on their side.
Give praise to back this up
Once you have pointed out the strengths in the learners work, it is important to congratulate and praise them for their efforts. They will have been working hard on the work you have just assessed, so it is important that you recognise and reward this. Credit where credit is due though, don’t just praise your learner for the sake of it otherwise it will lose its value at a later stage.
Pop the criticism in the middle
Now you have built up trust and your learner is feeling more relaxed, it is time to deliver the negative feedback. Don’t just swoop in and dump the news on them though, think carefully about how to approach your learner. Everyone takes bad news differently, and as you have been working with them for some time you should have an idea of how to approach this sensitive topic.
Try not to ‘beat around the bush’ and be specific on the areas in which the learner needs to improve. After all, the feedback should be constructive and give the learner pointers on how to move forward.
Go back and reiterate the positives
The hard bit is now out of the way, and your learner may be feeling a bit negative following the criticism. It is now essential that you remind them of how far they have come during the assessment, and give them the motivation they need to make the improvements.
Provide support and tips on how to improve
Remember that you are there to mentor your learner, and help them in any way necessary for them to pass the assessment. Whether they need extra support in one particular area, or generally need to up their game across all units, your learner needs to know you are there to help them. Before finishing the conversation, try putting together some actionable steps with your learner that they are comfortable with following. This will give them the extra motivation they need to improve their skills.
Regular feedback is important
After every single assessment that your learner undergoes you will need to provide feedback. We would always advise that you stick to the same method throughout the duration of the course, so that you come across in a sympathetic way.
The reason we like the ‘Sandwich’ method is that it prevents constructive criticism from being portrayed in an awkward way. Some people disregard this model as they believe people will pick up on it, and the praise part of the sandwich will start to feel insincere. However, being mighty and diving straight in with bad news can be extremely upsetting for someone who has been working tirelessly to get through the next stage of their course. It is all about balance, and showing your learner that you are on their side, supporting them through every step of the journey.
If you would like more information on how to deliver constructive feedback, why not have a look at our Level 3 Award in Education and Training where we have a specific module about understanding assessment in education in training. Contact us today to find out more.