"Maybe it's the first time somebody's been honest with you": exploring how residents reconcile feedback variability

Kaif Pardhan (Lead / Corresponding author), Linda Jones, Christopher Watling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Supervisors in postgraduate medical education may deliver different feedback for the same quality of performance. Residents may struggle to make sense of inconsistent and sometimes contradictory information. We sought to explore how residents experience feedback from different supervisors, how they process inconsistent information, and what factors influence their experiences.

Methods: Eighteen residents participated in semi-structured interviews to explore their perspectives on feedback. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, we engaged in iterative cycles of data collection and analysis, sampling until theoretical sufficiency was reached. Constant comparative analysis was used to identify and define themes.

Results: We identified a central theme of reconciliation, which we defined as the act of processing inconsistent feedback and determining how to engage with it. This reconciliation was informed by the credibility of, and residents' relationship with, supervisors and was achieved through conversations with peers and mentors, observation of other supervisors' behavior toward their performance, and reflection on their own performance. Participants expressed a reluctance to discard feedback, even if they felt it was incongruent with previous feedback or their own self-concept and self-assessment.

Conclusion: The findings of this study show that while residents are regular consumers of feedback, not all feedback is used equally. Residents actively reconcile sometimes-contradictory feedback and must work to balance a general reluctance to discard feedback, while developing an understanding of its credibility. This work reinforces the importance of pedagogical relationships and identifies that facilitated reflection that explicitly acknowledges feedback inconsistencies may be important in the reconciliation process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-149
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Early online date29 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Medical education
  • Feedback
  • Supervision
  • Residents


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