Nursing Education

Improving Learning With Competency-Based Feedback

A short video clip to help evolve your feedback approach to create competency-based learning opportunities

As you plan your feedback method, follow these principles and focus areas to ensure it’s meaningful in preparing future-ready nurses.


So giving feedback in a competency-based approach is really important. It’s an essential component of students’ growth and development. It tells them how well they are doing from a perspective outside of themselves. It raises questions that enable them to critique and further develop their ideas.

We consider feedback essential for students’ improvement of their thinking and learning by reinforcing students’ understanding of what they know and can do. It can motivate them to change and replace vague hope with realistic goal-setting.

Please keep in mind that in competency-based education, feedback is teaching it’s individualized teaching. And it is critical to the process. Next slide, please.

So some principles of feedback to focus on– while there are many types and purposes of feedback, feedback can be formative. It lets the student know how they’re doing in relation to standards or criteria. Or it can be summative to provide a final evaluative judgment on a particular performance in assessment for a course.

It can also be summative in the form of a competence or to allocate a grade. OK. In planning for feedback, think about how students will receive the feedback. Will it be from you as an instructor or faculty? Will it be from someone else, such as a peer?

Will it be orally? Will it be in writing? Will it be individually? Or will it be in groups? Given the level of the students involved? How will you ensure that the feedback is meaningful to them, that they can relate to it in the development of their ability?

And while we haven’t talked about it today, when we’ve talked about the essentials and the competencies and subcompentencies before, we talk about how they’re scaffolded throughout the curriculum. And feedback must be appropriate based on the level of the students.

So let’s look at some principles of feedback here. The first one, behavior in relation to– can go back, please– behavior in relation to criteria– that public description of the standard that is expected, whether it be criteria or rubric. And your feedback directly provides behavioral description of how the criteria were met or not met.

Use of criteria focused on behavior can take away the perception that you are critiquing the person, which brings into the second point, observation rather than inferences. When providing feedback, what did you see? What did you hear? Providing this information gives the student receiving this information the opportunity to form their own inferences.

The third point relates to the previous two– description rather than judgment. Report what you saw, heard in as objective a manner as possible. Judgments entail subjective evaluation– good, bad, positive, negative that is based on a personal frame of reference and values.

Behavior related to a specific situation– what is happening right now? The next two go together very well. What amount of information would serve the needs of the recipient versus the amount of information that I have?

I know that when I first began giving feedback, I would go on and on. Students would tell me that it was too much and they were overwhelmed. And it was hard for them to take an even one little morsel of what I was providing.

So I try to focus more on the criteria and a summation that suggests the last point. Share feed forward rather than advice. In other words, point the students to the next steps that they need to be successful.

In summarizing all of this, all of the principles of feedback, again, I want to stress what I stressed on the last slide. Feedback is teaching. And it is individualized teaching. And it’s so helpful for the students. Next slide, please.

So here are students’ thoughts on feedback. I’ve included this direct quote from one of our students who said, I think it’s helpful, because it’s individualized as you get your strengths and weaknesses. Also, it unmasks the goals of what you’re doing instead of just, splat, a letter grade. And you get some kind of explanation, some kind of idea of what you’re supposed to be doing and what you’re doing really well.