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Decoding Learner Feedback Dissatisfaction: Quantity Issues

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

What are your learners' quantity-related feedback concerns?

*This multi-part series describes ten common learner feedback complaints and how to identify which ones underlie your learner's feedback concerns.

A hand holding a pencil using tick marks to count

The second type of feedback complaint is about the QUANTITY of feedback the learner receives. These complaints speak to “how much” feedback is provided with the focus on the amount of or number of conversations or comments. (We will talk more about a related complaint–the FREQUENCY of feedback, or “how often” feedback is given–in the next post.) QUANTITY-related concerns focus on:

  • The number of comments provided (e.g. only number scales completed on evaluation forms, two quick comments offered during a discussion)

  • The length of comments provided (e.g. a few words, a few sentences)

  • The number of feedback conversations held (e.g. three conversations in one month)

  • The length of feedback conversations (e.g. 30 seconds, 5 minutes, 20 minutes)

  • The amount of feedback provided in relation to the amount of time the learner spent with the feedback giver (e.g. one comment versus fifteen comments over a month-long rotation)

How can you determine if your learners' feedback concerns are QUANTITY-related?

QUANTITY-related concerns are one of the most frequently mentioned complaints in the feedback scholarship, with trainees explicitly stating, "I’m not getting enough feedback." These concerns also may present as comments like:

  • "I worked with my attending for a week and the only feedback they gave was ‘You'll have a better result if you hold the tool this way.’"

  • "I only received number scores on my end-of-month evaluation. How am I supposed to learn from 3s and 4s?"

  • "Our ‘Feedback Friday’ conversation took place as we walked from one patient room to the next. I didn’t get much from that one-minute conversation."

  • "Six people submitted evaluations for my month-long rotation and I only received two short comments."

  • "Some attendings adopt a ‘no news is good news’ approach. But, how I am supposed to improve with ‘no news’?"

  • "It would be helpful if the writer provided more details about what they observed."

One foot standing next to an arrow called "quality" and the other foot next to an arrow with "quantity"

QUANTITY-related complaints often go hand in hand with QUALITY-related complaints because many learners find number scales or brief comments to be of low quality, value, or usefulness. (We’ll talk more about how to provide brief, high-quality feedback comments in a future post).

If your learners comment on the amount or the quality of feedback, ask them to share more details about what they would like to receive so you can determine whether QUANTITY or QUALITY elements (or both) are at the root of their complaints.

How can you reduce QUANTITY-related complaints?

It is difficult to predict how many comments a learner will find sufficient. To reduce possible complaints about the quantity, it is helpful to establish a supportive and collaborative feedback climate early in the rotation or shift and to clarify their expectations. Here are a few tips for a conversation ideally offered at the start of the rotation or first shift:

  • Remind everyone that this is a learning environment and that feedback is an essential part of the learning process. (E.g. “Everyone is here to learn and improve. To do that, we must identify strengths and areas for growth through feedback conversations.”

  • Communicate your genuine desire to help them learn and grow. (E.g. “I want everyone to succeed in this rotation.”)

  • Clarify what they can expect regarding the amount of feedback you tend to provide. (E.g. “I will give periodic feedback ‘on the fly’ during the rotation. On the final evaluation form, I will complete the number scales and write 2-3 comments about the issue I think is most pressing to address.”)

  • Provide your guidelines or preferences for their involvement in the feedback process. (E.g. “I view feedback as a collaborative process. If you would like more feedback or would like clarification, feel free to ask me specific questions when we have a free minute.”)

  • Remind them of your roles and issue a final action statement. (E.g. “As a reminder, my goal is to help everyone come out of this experience as better physicians. If you need more feedback than I am giving you, please ask.”)

Join the Conversation

What QUANTITY standards do you apply when providing feedback? In what situations is one comment enough? In what situations do you need to provide multiple comments? Share your comments or ask a question below.


What if the feedback issue is not QUANTITY-related?

Maybe your learners’ feedback concerns aren’t about the length or amount of feedback given, but rather about how often the feedback is given. In the next post, I will discuss FREQUENCY-related feedback concerns and how to spot them.

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