CRUST helps make sure all key factors are covered in providing useful feedback to students.
By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT
Last month, we discussed several ways of executing demonstrations. This month we will continue examining other teaching strategies including providing feedback to students.
Importance of Feedback
We all get better when we hear from others how poorly or well we did something and students are no different. They look to us for professional judgments of the stations they set up, the food they prepare, the way they wait on a table, the papers and presentations they develop, the calculations they work through in problems, and the judgments they make. Since we commit to help them develop as culinary professionals, our feedback is more broad reaching and critical to their future. Therefore, reflecting on what we do and how we do it can make a difference in their lives.
Our goal in providing feedback to students should be to help them grow and improve. While we should recognize achievements and praise them where appropriate, we should always consider in what ways we can help them become better culinarians and hospitality professionals.
Forms of Feedback
There are many ways to think about feedback when the focus is improvement; the most important is a person’s objective self-assessment. Best practice in performance evaluation always starts with a person’s own awareness of his or her strengths and areas for improvement. We should aim for the same perspective with our students. Therefore, always start by inviting them to provide an appraisal before you provide your feedback. You can always comment on a student’s evaluation of his or her performance. Some faculty members always begin a food critique by asking the students for their comments first; others require students to provide a short evaluation of each paper they write when they hand it in.
The second part should be provided by student peers. What did they see that a student did well or could do better? In class presentations, I always give students a form to use to evaluate and provide feedback to each presenter. I do not collect the forms. The students give them directly to each other, thereby honoring the value of their direct feedback and providing total confidentiality. I only see that they are completing the forms. It also expands the number of comments a student receives; if presenting to a class of 30 students each student will get 30 comments – 29 from other students and one from me.
Our professional judgment and feedback constitutes the third level of feedback; we should not abrogate our responsibility to share our perceptions and to provide our professional insights to our students. While it is important to consider what we say and how we say it, our feedback comes from a different experiential and professional background than fellow students. We also bring clear criteria to our assessment of their performance.
Criteria for Useful Feedback
There are several factors to consider in providing effective feedback, but the most important is your awareness of the student’s (or other person’s) readiness to hear and absorb it. That means when considering how and when to provide feedback to a student, remember to make sure that your student is ready, willing, and able to hear and absorb your feedback. Sometimes, he or she may say no, and it requires both humility and discipline on our part to accept that answer. However, at other times, that answer is not acceptable and it is up to you as a faculty member to decide when to honor a student’s request to not receive feedback at that moment in time. The person may be able to hear it more clearly later and that makes it important for us to take notes so that we can provide the feedback at another time.
When the student and you have little discretion over the timing of providing feedback, it becomes critical to prepare the student to hear carefully the feedback being provided. It makes it more effective if you provide the information in small chunks and if you ask the individual to review what he or she heard in the feedback so that you can improve or clarify the message you wanted the student to hear and use.
However, always remember to deliver it carefully and in a neutral or encouraging tone. Feedback is best if it is Checked, Requested, Understood, Specific, and Timely, and the image of a loaf of bread will help you remember the acronym CRUST to make sure that you have covered all the key parts of providing feedback that make a difference.
Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT, is retired as a clinical professor of hotel and tourism management at New York University. As principal of Mayo Consulting Services, he continues to teach around the globe and is a regular presenter at CAFÉ events nationwide.