The Art (and Artifice) of Seeking Feedback: Clerkship Students’ Approaches to Asking for Feedback

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Abstract

Purpose

As attention has shifted to learners as significant partners in feedback interactions, it is important to explore what feedback-seeking behaviors medical students use and how the faculty–student relationship affects feedback-seeking behaviors.

Method

This qualitative study was inspired by the organizational psychology literature. Third-year medical students were interviewed at Maine Medical Center in April–May 2017 after completing a traditional block rotation clerkship or a nine-month longitudinal integrated clerkship (LIC). A constructivist grounded theory approach was used to analyze transcripts and develop themes.

Results

Fourteen students participated (eight LIC, six block rotation). Themes associated with why students sought feedback included goal orientations, perceived benefits and costs, and student and feedback provider characteristics. Factors influencing the way students sought feedback included busy environments, timing, and cues students were attuned to. Students described more inquiry than monitoring approaches and used various indirect and noninquiry techniques (artifice) in asking for feedback. Students did not find summative feedback as helpful as seeking feedback themselves, and they suggested training in seeking feedback would be beneficial. Faculty–student relationship dynamics included several aspects affecting feedback-seeking behaviors, and relationship differences in the LIC and block models affected feedback-seeking behaviors.

Conclusions

Medical students have many motives to seek feedback and adapt their feedback-seeking behaviors to actively participate in an intricate dialogic interaction with feedback providers. Students gradually refine the art (and artifice) of obtaining the specific feedback information that meets their needs. The authors offer a prototype curriculum that may facilitate students’ development of feedback-seeking skills.

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