Feedback has gained an increasingly important role in surgical education. Feedback may be summative and/or formative. Summative feedback is often given at discrete time points such as the end of a rotation and is a culmination of observations of performance. Formative feedback involves an ongoing assessment of skills or knowledge and may be given throughout an education experience. There is an often misunderstood distinction between teaching and feedback. As an example, teaching is when the attending surgeon corrects the resident’s needle angle during a bowel anastomosis. Feedback is when the attending surgeon and resident meet after the case and discuss performance—either technical or nontechnical. For example, a feedback session might discuss room setup, efficiency, technical maneuvers, and communication. Giving and receiving feedback are distinct skills that require both parties to be attentive and open. To facilitate this process, several methods have been described that turn feedback into an active process for both parties. Ideally, the mentor and the trainee have a briefing prior to the case in order to set learning objectives and then formally debrief after the case to discuss how well the learning objectives were met as well as ways to improve this in the future. In the press of clinical concerns and the drive toward efficiency, the debrief session is often skipped or missed. It is incumbent on the learner, therefore, to specifically seek out and ask the attending surgeon for feedback and if necessary to schedule formal meeting times. It is also important for feedback to flow both ways, and the attending surgeon should ask for feedback from the residents as well. A good methodology for providing feedback is to ask an open-ended question such as “How did you think that operation went?” Which can be followed with “What went well?” and “What could have gone better?” This allows the person providing feedback with a baseline to start from and allow for self-reflection on the part of the learner. This can be followed with specific feedback about one to two actionable items, preferably relating back to the goals stated during the initial briefing.
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