Peer Feedback Boosts Performance

Feedback and Performance

One powerful means for improving one’s performance and learning is getting feedback on his current performance in order to be able to act upon such feedback and improve his performance. During a training session it is crucial that the trainer provides useful and balanced feedback to trainees as he observes their performance as they go through various training activities completing numerous tasks. In addition to receiving feedback from the trainer, it is highly useful that a trainee receives feedback from his colleagues as well.

Mutual Benefit

When the trainer asks trainees to provide feedback to each other both the receiver and the provider of the feedback benefit a lot. The provider of the feedback gets a chance to carefully examine the performance of his partner and come up with conclusions in addition to communicating such conclusions to his partner. This makes him see clearly how good performance can be like and what to avoid. The trainee on the receiving end of course benefits from the feedback given to him by his partner in seeing his performance more clearly through the eyes of someone else which helps him further improve his performance next time he is carrying out a similar activity.

Positive Language

When providing feedback one has to be positive and use positive language. If the provider of feedback tries to show off his superiority by attempting to find all large and small mistakes in the performance of a trainee and expresses them in a strong negative language this may overwhelm the person receiving the feedback and totally shatter any kind of self confidence he might have had to the extent of disabling him completely from improving at all in the future in some cases. Feedback therefore must be balanced and the wording of the feedback itself should be all positive.

Graphic Facilitation

During a graphic facilitation workshop I had attended, the trainers asked participants to pair up and provide one another with feedback about their drawings. We were asked to first list 3 positive aspects of the drawings then after that mention 3 improvements that can be made. We notice here that one should always start first with the positive when providing feedback. Even when the time comes for pointing out the negative this should be done using positive words such as labeling them as “suggested improvements” rather than “mistakes” or “negative points.” Such feedback that uses all positive language not only informs the feedback receiver but also boosts his self confidence and enables him to drastically improve his performance.

Training of Trainers

When delivering training of trainers (TOT) workshops I ask participants to first list the positive points they see in demos of their colleagues then suggest improvements after that. Sometimes if the main aim is to boost trainee confidence one can ask for positive feedback only and prohibit any feedback on negative points for the time being.


Although receiving feedback from the trainer can be highly useful yet having trainees exchange feedback can be more so. Peer feedback also allows lots of feedback to be provided simultaneously in a short period of time in the case of pairing trainees with one another or dividing them into groups.

Observation as a Powerful Learning Tool

Teaching 3D Modeling to Street Children

Observation can be a very powerful method for learning. I remember that I was once teaching a young girl how to use SketchUp, a 3D modeling software program. This was part of a support program for street children. I had been teaching her how to use the program for several days by then. During that day, another new street girl was with us in the same room. She did not appear as deeply focused on what we were doing on the computer but I discovered later on that she was observing us keenly.

After a short while, this new street girl told me that she as well wanted to use that 3D modeling program. I told her OK but after I am finished with the first girl. I then asked the first girl to leave her seat from in front of the computer and invited the other new girl, who had been observing us, to take her place.

Power of Observation

I was just about to explain to the new girl the very basics of using the 3D modeling program when I was surprised by her reaction: she asked me not to tell her anything and said that she will be able to use the program on her own! I tried to convince her that she will need some help at the beginning so that she can learn how to use the program. She insisted that she is just fine and can use it on her own without any help from me. Failing to convince her, I left her alone to use the program and I was sure she would soon be asking for my help.

I was wrong, for I was in for another surprise. This new girl was able to use the software to create 3D models which were way better than the ones the first girl had been creating. She was able to do so without any help on my side. She had only been observing the first girl for a short while while the first girl had been receiving one on one instruction from me for several sessions!

I admit that this new girl was talented, for she was also good at drawing, yet the progress she made in learning how to use that 3D modeling program was outstanding.

Learning Styles

Observation on its own can be a very powerful source of learning. It should be noted here though that people have different learning styles. A girl that has been spending most of her time roaming the streets, rather than getting any formal education, would be developing the skill of learning by observation out of necessity. In contrast, a girl being taught at school using direct instruction might find it difficult to learn something new without direct help from a teacher.

Is there something you first learned solely through observation? What was it? Tell us the story.