constructive feedback Feedback is a wonderful thing, when you can understand it. When you can’t… To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, “Well that’s even more than less than unhelpful.” You get the idea.

Think back to the last time you got feedback on something. Maybe it was suggested revisions for a project or the survey responses for how you did during a speaking engagement. Or maybe it was storyboard revisions for eLearning. What did it say?

Solid feedback helps people make needed adjustments and improvements to their work. When feedback is unclear it either becomes meaningless, a source of frustration, or the cause of

disagreements. Ultimately, feedback needs to provide directions and suggestions or point out something that isn’t working well. If a comment doesn’t do any of those things, it’s probably not going to be very helpful. Luckily, we can learn how to give good feedback. Here are some quick tips.


  • Explain why you like or dislike something
    • Ex. “This is a really clear explanation!” Or “These colors are too bright.”
    • What the person reading it thinks: “Great, they liked that! Maybe I can use this approach elsewhere too.” Or “I can try using ‘quieter’ colors instead.”
  • If you want something specific, leave direct instructions
    • Ex. “Rewrite the first sentence to say ‘_______’ instead.”
    • What the person reading it thinks: “Easy fix.”
  • If you want something general, leave clear guidelines
    • Ex. “This screen is really wordy. Try cutting back on the text without removing any of the content.”
    • What the person reading it thinks: “Ok, that’s the problem. I may need to think about this a bit, but I should be able to make it work.”
  • Offer alternative suggestions
    • Ex. “Maybe try a more muted color palette. Or perhaps black and white if muted doesn’t work well.”
    • What the person reading it thinks: “I’ll give both of these a try and see what looks better.”
  • Get confirmation if you’re unsure of something, then pass the answer along
    • Ex. “I’m not sure if this is right. Let me check with the expert. I’ll get back to you.”
    • What the person reading it thinks: “Alright. I hope they get me the answer on time.”


  • Write generic statements
    • Ex. “I don’t like this.”
    • What the person reading it thinks: “How am I supposed to fix it if you don’t tell me what’s wrong? I’m not a mind reader.”
  • Ask rhetorical questions the other person doesn’t have the answer for
    • Ex. “Has this policy been updated yet?”
    • What the person reading it thinks: “I’m not in charge of that. How should I know? You’re supposed to be telling me if something needs to be updated.”
  • Leave conflicting notes
    • Ex. One note says, “Replace the word ‘dog’ with ‘canine’ throughout this module.” A second note in the same document says, “Add the sentence, ‘The dog ran.’ ”
    • What the person reading it thinks: “Do I use ‘dog’ or ‘canine’ here? I need to get confirmation.”
  • Make personal attacks
    • Ex. “What were you thinking?”
    • What the person reading it thinks: “I thought it was a good idea. Now I think I’d rather work with someone other than you.”

To recap, feedback is better than no feedback. Clear feedback is better than confusing feedback. Confusing feedback is, sadly, quite common. Feedback’s quality can be improved by following best practices.


If you’d like to read more about instructional design best practices, check out the rest of this author’s blogs.

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