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Skills Guides

Giving & receiving feedback


Professional feedback

Being able to give and receive feedback is a core skill you will learn in your studies at University which will support the level of your academic work and then as you progress in the world of work.

What is professional feedback?

Put simply, feedback is questioning and critiquing in an objective and constructive way a piece of work, whether it be a concept or idea or performance.

It can be given in various ways, for example face to face, in a group or one to one, online via discussion forums or video chats, or in writing.

Why is professional feedback important?

Throughout your time at York both giving and receiving feedback is likely to be required of you. This is to support your own development and the development of group work and your peers and will:

  • Improve outcomes by considering a range of viewpoints
  • Help people to learn from their mistakes
  • Build confidence.

Professional feedback will help you in the world of work

This skills of giving and receiving feedback you are developing at University will be critical for you in the workplace after graduation. 

In the workplace it’s crucial to work together to maintain good relationships. The world is constantly changing at a rapid pace, and that means that in the workplace you and the teams and organisations you work with will need to review and adapt work and processes constantly, so getting into the practice of this now will support you to be agile and perform well later

How to give professional feedback

What giving professional feedback might look like in your studies

In group work for a module...

...explaining to a team member what you appreciate and think is good about their ideas or contributions; questioning areas of their ideas that you do not fully understand or feel could be developed further; or objectively explaining where you feel an idea or presentation does not work as well as it could (either verbally or online chat function)

In a seminar...

...agreeing and developing on another students analysis or observation, or providing a different perspective (either verbally or online chat function)

Completing a module evaluation form...

... to help the module leader assess what worked well, what could be better and constructive ideas for improvement from a student experience perspective

How to give feedback

1. Be positive

Explain concisely what you feel the person, project, idea or approach is doing right in terms of the objective (the objective could be the assignment brief, project goal or presentation aim). Use language such as: ‘Have you considered…’ or ‘I wonder if...’ “I understand where you are coming from here however looking at it from the view point of...”

2. Be objective

Focus on the work, not on the person.

3. Be receptive

It’s more productive to invite discussion, to gain insight into the other person’s approach and work collaboratively on a way forward.

The skill of giving professional feedback will help you in the world of work

Giving professional feedback in the workplace might look like:

  • Asking questions to seek further information or providing a viewpoint from your area of expertise in the organisation on an idea or proposal being discussed, either face to face or online via chat functions
  • Proposing a perspective on an area of work or idea that doesn’t seem to have been considered in a work project by a colleague or manager.

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How to receive professional feedback

What receiving professional feedback might look like in your studies

Feedback on your assignment...

...what you did well and what you could improve on for an academic assignment from your module leader

Working on a module group project...

...receiving positive comments, questions and/or suggestions from your peers on your contribution. This could include feedback on your ideas, written contribution, presentation content and delivery or your overall contribution and effect on the group

Seminar discussions...

...questions, observations, different perspectives to consider or suggestions from peers in seminars in a classroom face to face or virtually through video call, audibly or on the chat function.

How to receive feedback

1. Actively listen... the feedback you are being given and focus on what is objective in that feedback. What are the points being made for improvement? Ask yourself: how could this different approach could improve the quality of my work or performance?

2. Ask questions...

...and engage in conversation about the content of the feedback. If it’s new information, find out more and discuss the implications to your work or performance. Ask for further advice if you need it

3. Be thankful

Thank the person for their time and feedback.

The skill of receiving professional feedback will help you into the world of work

Receiving feedback in the world of work might look like:

  • Asking colleagues or your line manager for feedback: on your thoughts, process or progress on an area of work to gain different perspectives supporting your development and outcomes 
  • Constantly reviewing an area or work or process: through discussions with colleagues, customers and managers to ensure it is still fit for purpose in a changing landscape enabling you to be agile in your work 
  • Discussing your development needs and opportunities: with your line manager, work mentors and colleagues 

Top tips

Feedback from all sources is extremely valuable.

A common mistake to avoid is to discard feedback from your peers, whether this be in your studies from fellow students or in the workplace from your colleagues.

It is crucial to work together and take on board information, data and perspectives to continuously improve and also to maintain good relationships for working dynamics.

It is difficult not to be defensive when receiving feedback. It does take effort to be open to other’s suggestions and you can feel a bit “under attack”. Feedback is a key source of professional development, so it is important not to close yourself off to it.