The ABCD of Effective Feedback

When you get feedback from your peers, some of it will be negative feedback that you’ll then have to communicate to the University. Can you present negative feedback in a professional way? Absolutely – if you stick to these guidelines.

It’s important to remember that staff care about your education or research, and a relationship based on mutual respect will help you make the most of your position as a leader in your department. 

However, it’s also vitally important that student opinions are still heard even if the topic means you need to strongly consider how you present the feedback to the University. You need to make sure you are still giving voice to student opinions, but in a professional, constructive way that keeps your relationship with the University a positive one.

In remembering these four words: ACCURATE, BALANCED, CONSTRUCTIVE, DEPERSONALISED, you can ensure your feedback is professional at all times. Click through to find our guidance for each quality of professional feedback.

Accurate

You will need to ensure you can back up your feedback with facts and that you’re presenting the core messages that your cohort wants you to present. 

This will give you the confidence that when you’re raising feedback to staff, you’re providing an accurate view of what your peers think. 

For UG/PGT Reps, a great way to ensure your feedback is accurate is to make use of your MySurrey Voice discussion boards where you can ask questions, start discussions, and get a broad, factual sense of what your fellow students think.

Balanced

If you receive positive feedback from your peers, you can also provide that when you present your negative feedback to help balance it out.

Encouraging students to share positive feedback with you, either in person, or on your MySurrey Voice discussion boards is a great way to keep your feedback to staff balanced.

Balanced feedback will have the benefit of showing your department what the cohort wants to see more of. For example, if staff know that you loved the way a module was ran, they may look to see what parts of that module were popular, and introduce them into other modules, for example! Similarly, at research level, if you found a workshop or new training resource helpful, you can communicate that to encourage similar provision is made. The University refers to this as “good practice”.

Constructive

Be considerate and think about how you’re presenting feedback, and try and identify solutions or think about what the cohort would like to see in place of the things they don’t like.

Remember, you want staff to be able to take action if you do have issues to raise, and so the best way to help this happen is to provide ideas and solutions that you think would be better in future or to remedy the issue.

Constructive feedback provided for the sake of improving things is the best way forward. 

Depersonalised

The three golden rules: depersonalise your feedback from yourself, depersonalise feedback from the student or PGR who raised it, and depersonalise feedback from individual members of staff.

Remember that you’re there to represent the majority view of your peers, even if you individually don’t agree with the majority opinion. For example, if you’re on a taught course and you don’t find lecture recordings to be helpful revision material, but the rest of your cohort does, you need to present that collective view to the department, not your own individual view.

Keep feedback anonymous – you must ensure that when your peers share their opinions with you, you remove their names before escalating it to the attention of staff. They must feel confident they can share their feedback privately with you.

If the cohort has an issue with an individual member of staff, please do not air that in a public meeting or post about them individually on your MySurrey Voice discussion boards. First, see if you can generalise the feedback before you present it, and if you can’t, speak to a trusted member of staff in the department privately to raise the feedback. You can also always speak to the Students’ Union if you’re not sure what to do. Remember, staff members are individuals with a right to be respected just like you are, and showing respect is the best way to receive it back in kind.