University of Stirling

School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health

Mentor Programme


Constructive Feedback


“… students complain that it can be difficult to get their mentor to give them constructive criticism” (Gray and Smith 2000).

The purpose of constructive feedback is:

  • To communicate information on individual performance and on the effect of performance on other people.
  • To enable individuals to understand what they are doing and how they are doing it.

Below you will find examples of feedback. Select those which are examples of constructive feedback.


"It’s not good enough”.


“You dealt with that enquiry very well, although you did forget to have a word with me, before giving the information.”


“Perhaps we are expecting too much from you.”


“You’re making good progress.”


“You’re perfect.”


“Everything is going very well.”


"That wasn’t too bad, but…"

You may have selected 2 and 4. Look again though at 4. Although it would have encouraged a learner, she/he needs to know exactly what it is that she/he has done well.

Here are some general hints on giving feedback:

  • Give praise before criticism, and end on a positive note
  • Be specific
  • Concentrate on things that can be changed
  • Give the learner time to think and respond
  • Check the time is appropriate
  • Listen to how the feedback is received

Remember: we all need to know how well we are doing.

Giving constructive feedback requires:

  • Courage in facing up to a situation
  • Skill in knowing how to deal with a range of situations
  • Understanding the need for constructive discussion and feedback
  • That you respect and value yourself
  • Respect for others by recognising and valuing differences in individuals

University of Plymouth, Institute of Health Studies (1995)

A useful way of looking at feedback is to use a support/challenge grid (MPBLW 2006: 49):

High Support
Low Challenge


High support high challenge


Low support low challenge


Low support high challenge



  • Can you think of an example for each box?


There are sections on constructive feedback in the Mentoring Pack (MPBLW 2006: 47-50) and in the Communication Skills booklet (Dixon and O’Hara: 18-22).

Pdf icon Mentoring Pack [PEF 1.5MB]