The Value of Immediate Feedback in Clinical Settings

September 21, 2016 Kristen Hicks

Feedback is essential to learning. You can’t get better unless you’re provided a measure of how you’re doing now. Providing good feedback has always been one of the most important jobs instructors face. Whether feedback is actually useful is based on how it’s provided.

In the health sciences in particular, in which people need to be able to think fast and learn fast, immediate feedback can play a crucial role in learning.

One of the reasons clinicals are so valuable to students is that they force students to think on their feet and use the knowledge they already have to make fast decisions. If professors can match that fast decision making to provide students with input on their performance quickly, students will get even more out of the exercise.

The Research on Feedback Immediacy

Intuitively, the idea that providing feedback faster benefits students makes sense. The sooner you know to correct a behavior or piece of misinformation, the better the correction will stick.

Academics know better than to simply trust intuition, though. You need real research to know for sure if something that feels true actually is.

Naturally, researchers have delved into this question and come to some clear conclusions (nice when that actually happens).

In research by Nicol and Macfarlane from 2006, good feedback is qualified by, among other characteristics, being “provided in a timely manner (close to the act of learning production).”

A 2009 study surveyed students on what they considered the most valuable forms of support instructors provide, and it found that timely feedback from teachers was one of the items most commonly cited.

The research is clear on this subject. When you can provide high-quality feedback to a student soon after they’ve learned a subject (and the feedback does still have to be of a high quality), students will learn the information more effectively.

How to Achieve Faster Feedback for Clinicals

Faster feedback is better, but rushed work is often sloppy work. You want to provide feedback that’s thoughtful and aligned to the primary knowledge skills and competencies the clinical is designed to measure. How do you maintain the quality you desire for the feedback, while also being quick about it?

Use rubrics to make subjective assessments easier.

ExamSoft’s rubrics let you clearly outline the criteria you want to use for grading during the clinical and make it easy to measure a student’s success for each clinical in real time. By having all of that in place in advance and presented to you in an intuitive format during the exercise itself, you can fill in your feedback quickly without losing any of the thoughtfulness you know is important.

Release the report to students once grading is complete.

When you grade in real time, you can get the grades and feedback to your students right away. ExamSoft produces assessment reports that put the grades and feedback into a visual, easy-to-understand format that ensures students get more out of the feedback. Students can review their progress while the clinical is still fresh in their mind and learn what they need to know that same day.

In many areas of academia, being slow, thoughtful, and thorough is best. When it comes to providing feedback for clinicals, being thoughtful and thorough in advance is better so you can be fast when it counts.



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