Educators' behaviour during feedback in authentic clinical practice settings: an observational study and systematic analysis

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Background: Verbal feedback plays a critical role in health professions education but it is not clear which components of effective feedback have been successfully translated from the literature into supervisory practice in the workplace, and which have not. The purpose of this study was to observe and systematically analyse educators’ behaviours during authentic feedback episodes in contemporary clinical practice.
Methods: Educators and learners videoed themselves during formal feedback sessions in routine hospital training. Researchers compared educators’ practice to a published set of 25 educator behaviours recommended for quality feedback. Individual educator behaviours were rated 0 = not seen, 1 = done somewhat, 2 = consistently done. To characterise individual educator’s practice, their behaviour scores were summed. To describe how commonly each behaviour was observed across all the videos, mean scores were calculated.
Results: Researchers analysed 36 videos involving 34 educators (26 medical, 4 nursing, 4 physiotherapy professionals) and 35 learners across different health professions, specialties, levels of experience and gender. There was considerable variation in both educators’ feedback practices, indicated by total scores for individual educators ranging from 5.7 to 34.2 (maximum possible 48), and how frequently specific feedback behaviours were seen across all the videos, indicated by mean scores for each behaviour ranging from 0.1 to 1.75 (maximum possible 2). Educators commonly provided performance analysis, described how the task should be performed, and were respectful and supportive. However a number of recommended feedback behaviours were rarely seen, such as clarifying the session purpose and expectations, promoting learner involvement, creating an action plan or arranging a subsequent review.
Conclusions: These findings clarify contemporary feedback practice and inform the design of educational initiatives to help health professional educators and learners to better realise the potential of feedback.
Original languageEnglish
Article number129
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2019


  • Feedback
  • Formative feedback
  • Health professions education
  • Professional development

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