Have you found that feedback is sometimes treated as though it is a dirty word? Whilst it is true that false praise, such as "That was good" when it obviously wasn’t, is worthless, feedback actually has nothing to do with praise; it is information given to someone about their performance so that they can improve next time.

In the context of teaching bell handling, if you start by recognising that a new ringer doesn’t know the difference between good and bad movements, then your feedback allows them to understand when they are doing something right or wrong and tells them how they can improve. Without such feedback the learner might well judge their performance by how in control they feel or the look on your face, and then have to guess how to improve.

Verbal feedback can be positive, negative or neutral – informational with no positive or negative connotations – such as, "Remember to keep your handstroke lead open." Positive feedback provides encouragement; ringers like to receive praise when it is sincere and honest. Negative feedback does not encourage, may be demotivating and contribute to ringers giving up easily.

The way in which you use feedback will affect the way the learner feels. You should aim to use feedback in a manner which leaves the ringer feeling positive. "DON'T" is one of the most negative words you can use. Used frequently it will demotivate, but unfortunately, it is commonly used. Teachers are notorious for recognising and correcting errors more often than noticing correct aspects of movements. Remember to recognise positive aspects of a ringer’s performance and use them in the feedback you give to them.

If you find it difficult to avoid the "don't" word, then try using the following technique:

· Good – start with what was good about the ringer’s performance or attitude.

· Better – then give feedback about what needs to be worked on.

· How – provide advice on how to improve performance.

Your feedback will be most useful if it is given immediately after the performance. If the feedback is delayed it is more likely that the ringer will have forgotten exactly how they performed. And to give the ringer the best chance of improving, try to give them the opportunity to practise what needs to be improved straight away.

So, feedback isn’t a dirty word, it is a powerful and necessary teaching tool. When used carefully and thoughtfully it can lead to significant performance improvement and leave the learner feeling both positive and ready for more.

Lesley Belcher

ART Chair