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Med Educ. 2008 Feb;42(2):189-97. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2007.02973.x.

What is feedback in clinical education?

Author information

  • 1Centre for Research and Development, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands. j.m.m.vanderidder@umcutrecht.nl

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Feedback is important in clinical education. However, the medical education literature provides no consensual definition of feedback. The aim of this study is to propose a consensual, research-based, operational definition of feedback in clinical education. An operational definition is needed for educational practice and teacher training, and for research into the effectiveness of different types of feedback.

METHODS:

A literature search about definitions of feedback was performed in general sources, meta-analyses and literature reviews in the social sciences and other fields. Feedback definitions given from 1995 to 2006 in the medical education literature are also reviewed.

RESULTS:

Three underlying concepts were found, defining feedback as 'information'; as 'reaction', including information, and as a 'cycle', including both information and reaction. In most medical education and social science literature, feedback is usually conceptualised as information only. Comparison of feedback definitions in medical education reveals at least 9 different features. The following operational definition is proposed. Feedback is: 'Specific information about the comparison between a trainee's observed performance and a standard, given with the intent to improve the trainee's performance.'

CONCLUSIONS:

Different conceptual representations and the use of different key features might be a cause for inconsistent definitions of feedback. The characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of this research-based operational definition are discussed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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