The Compliment Sandwich; A Tasty Tip for Giving Constructive Feedback

Have you ever opened your email inbox and been overwhelmed by an influx of feedback surveys? Have you ever thought that your opinion didn’t matter or wouldn’t change things? With the Course Experience Survey just around the corner, I’m here to tell you why student feedback matters, and how you can make your voice heard. 

The University releases several surveys across the year, all quantifying and qualifying different data and responses to try and deliver the best student experience possible. Some relate to your courses and degree, like the Course Experience Survey. Others focus on the student experience at University of Newcastle, like the SFUN and SES Surveys. Do you have something you thought could be improved in your class? Want to thank your lecturer for making you think in a different way? Or want Coca Cola to come out of the fountains? The best way to get your message across is to provide critical and constructive feedback through official channels such as surveys. 

Surveys provide the university and third parties with communicable aims and a first-hand voice in what it means to be a student at the university. Just recently, The House was opened on Callaghan in response to student requests through surveys for more study and chill-out spaces on campus.  

Giving constructive feedback is a lifelong skill and not just one that is limited to clicking a few buttons on a survey. Most jobs and roles will require feedback and input from staff; whether this is annual performance reviews, interviews and probation periods. A key skill is being able to communicate your meaning without alienating yourself in the process. Remember you catch more flies with honey than vinegar! 

Sometimes the hardest part of giving feedback can be knowing where to start and what exactly to say. The University has put together a handy guide of how to give helpful feedback, which is worth checking out if you’re feeling stuck. 

The best advice I have ever been given about providing feedback is the compliment sandwich (real ones will remember Carly and Tresne talking about it on My Kitchen Rules in 2014).  

I want you to imagine you are a sandwich artist for a moment (sorry Subway). The basic structure of a compliment sandwich is:  

Bread: positive introduction 

Filling: constructive feedback 

Bread: positive resolution 

The idea is that you place the part that you want to see changed or adjusted in between positive messages as a buffer.  

So an example would be: 

I really enjoyed X’s class this semester and found it to be innovative. However, I felt that more time could have been put aside to discuss upcoming assignments. I feel that this course is worthwhile, but my experience could have been improved with a more thorough understanding of assignment expectations.  

Remember your lecturer is a human and will be reading your comments. Think about how you can make your sandwich more appealing and satisfying for the person reading. And much like voting: rude, derogatory or unserious attempts will be disregarded.  

Bready or not – the next time you see that email pop up, imagine your favourite sandwich and get stuck in. 

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