Psychological Safety in Feedback

The journal article was called ‘Psychological safety in feedback: What does it look like and how can educators work with learners to foster it?’.  The team reviewed 36 videos of routine formal feedback in clinical practice with the aim of offering practical ways that educators can maximise psychological safety so that learners can honestly reflect and improve performance.  The videos were of 34 educators (26 medicine, 4 nursing and 4 physiotherapy; 16 male and 18 female) giving feedback to 35 learners (12 male and 23 female).

The group began by discussing the importance of psychological safety for the educator to discover things known by the student but not known to the educator (using the concept of the Johari window). The paper gave practical ways to encourage psychological safety, and some reflected on the hidden links to growth mindset theory and developing a coaching and mentoring style to create a safe space for feedback.

Discussion followed regarding feedback to large groups of students, for example, on assignments and providing opportunities for feedback discussion that is developmental.  The use of verbal feedback as part of the usual assignment written feedback was also encouraged to promote 2-way feedback.

Some members of the group agreed to put together a one-page summary for educators and learners to help learners receive feedback as well as helping educators when giving feedback.  Guidance could include the language used i.e. ‘we’ and ‘us’ to foster shared experience.  Also, normalising certain topics or skills that learners struggle with through communication to the full cohort.

The group concluded that feedback was a skill that needed to be developed.

The take home messages from the participants of the journal club at the end of the session were as follows:

  • To look into the Johari window as a tool
  • To look at the tools we use to encourage students to get involved
  • To think about how to give written feedback on assignments to enable students to read the rest of the feedback
  • To consider the different responses a student might have to ‘dipping their toe in the water’ (illustration from the paper) and how to ensure it is a positive experience to encourage further engagement with feedback
  • To find out what students want from feedback e.g. time and space, a safe framework to discuss feedback
  • To reflect on how to ensure students receive quality feedback when on clinical placement
  • To review assessment strategy in order to reduce written assessments and have more practical workplace-based assessment; and to challenge what I want to get out of feedback (rather than just as a task to complete)

Continue the conversation through our Yammer Pedagogy Journal Club.

Luft, J. (1969). Of Human Interaction. Palo Alto: National Press Books. Accessed 02/03/22 at