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Learning Methods

Practice Giving Constructive Feedback

Objective: See the value of balanced, timely, and specific feedback to the outcomes of performance materials.

Materials: Markers, a box, a bandana or something to cover someone's eyes.

Introduction: Feedback that helps a person is: balanced (what they're doing well and poorly), timely, and specific.


Find 5 volunteers and send 4 of them out of the room. Place the box somewhere in the middle of the room. Bring volunteer #1 and cover his/her eyes. Then give him/her (ok, let's say it's a her) the markers and ask her to throw them in the box (which she cannot see). Give her no feedback whatsoever. Just remain silent as she throws markers all over the place. Have the volunteer who stayed in the room tally the number of markers that by sheer luck fell in the box.

Volunteer #1 is done. Get the next volunteer in. Cover his eyes. Give him markers. Tell him to throw the markers inside the box. Give him only negative feedback - ouch, you're doing lousy. Hum... Bad job, bad job...but give no specific instructions on where the box is or how to improve. Again, have the volunteer who stayed tally the number of successfully thrown markers. Call volunteer #3.

This time, give the volunteer only positive feedback, but nonspecific. Lots of pats on the back, encouragement, atta-girl, etc...but zero instructions on where the box is or how to improve. Once more, tally the number of markers inside the box.

Finally, call volunteer #4. This time, give feedback that is balanced and specific. Let the person know how far he is from the box. Inform him how to move and where to go. Give him encouragement when needed, but make sure the encouragement is specific. Tally the successfully thrown markers.

Processing: Have participants pick apart what was balanced, timely, specific or not, for each volunteer.

You may add whatever you want to this learning...for instance, sometimes during the negative feedback part say something know, 4 markers ago you were kind of close, but you went downhill from there (to illustrate the importance of timely feedback).

From Cris to the training and development listserv (



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