What is feedback in clinical education?

J. M.Monica Van De Ridder*, Karel M. Stokking, William C. McGaghie, Olle Th J. Ten Cate

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

388 Scopus citations


Objective: Feedback is important in clinical education. However, the medical education literature provides no consensual definition of feedback. The aim of this study is to propose a consensual, research-based, operational definition of feedback in clinical education. An operational definition is needed for educational practice and teacher training, and for research into the effectiveness of different types of feedback. Methods: A literature search about definitions of feedback was performed in general sources, meta-analyses and literature reviews in the social sciences and other fields. Feedback definitions given from 1995 to 2006 in the medical education literature are also reviewed. Results: Three underlying concepts were found, defining feedback as 'information'; as 'reaction', including information, and as a 'cycle', including both information and reaction. In most medical education and social science literature, feedback is usually conceptualised as information only. Comparison of feedback definitions in medical education reveals at least 9 different features. The following operational definition is proposed. Feedback is: 'Specific information about the comparison between a trainee's observed performance and a standard, given with the intent to improve the trainee's performance.' Conclusions: Different conceptual representations and the use of different key features might be a cause for inconsistent definitions of feedback. The characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of this research-based operational definition are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-197
Number of pages9
JournalMedical education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • *feedback
  • Clinical medicine/*education
  • Education, medical/*methods
  • Review [publication type]
  • Teaching/*methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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