Feedback in Communication Studies

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

"Remember," says Mark David Gerson, "the only reason to offer feedback is to support the writer and his or her work. This is not a test of your ability to pick out flaws. Don't be smart. Be gentle. Don't show off. Be fair" ( Writers Block Unblocked, 2014).

sturti/Getty Images

In communication studies, feedback is the response of an audience to a message or activity.

Feedback can be conveyed both verbally and nonverbally.

"[L]earning how to give effective feedback is as important as any subject matter we teach," says Regie Routman. "Yet giving useful feedback is one of the most elusive elements in teaching and learning" (Read, Write, Lead, 2014).

Examples and Observations

"The term 'feedback' is taken from cybernetics, a branch of engineering concerned with self-regulating systems. In its simplest form, feedback is a self-stabilizing control system such as the Watt steam governor, which regulates the speed of a steam engine or a thermostat that controls the temperature of a room or oven. In the communication process, feedback refers to a response from the receiver which gives the communicator an idea of how the message is being received and whether it needs to be modified. . . .

"Strictly speaking, negative feedback does not imply 'bad,' and positive feedback 'good.' Negative feedback indicates that you should do less of what you are doing or change to something else. Positive feedback encourages you to increase what you are doing, which can go out of control (over excitement at a party, fighting or having a row). If you are crying, feedback from those around may cause you to dry your eyes and put on a brave face (if feedback is negative) or weep unashamedly (if feedback is positive)." (David Gill and Bridget Adams, ABC of Communication Studies, 2nd ed. Nelson Thomas, 2002)

Useful Feedback on Writing

"The most useful feedback you can give someone (or receive yourself) is neither vague encouragement ('Good start! Keep at it!') nor scorching criticism ('Sloppy method!'), but rather an honest assessment of how the text reads. In other words, 'Rewrite your introduction because I don't like it' is not nearly as helpful as 'You start off saying you want to look at trends in functionalistic interior design, but you seem to spend most of your time talking about the use of color among the Bauhaus designers.' This gives the author not only insight into what is confusing the reader but also several options for fixing it: She can rewrite the introduction either to focus on Bauhaus designers or to better explain the link between functionalistic interior design and Bauhaus designers, or she can restructure the paper to talk about other aspects of functionalistic interior design." (Lynn P. Nygaard, Writing for Scholars: A Practical Guide to Making Sense and Being Heard. Universitetsforlaget, 2008)

Feedback on Public Speaking

"Public speaking presents different opportunities for feedback, or listener response to a message, than does dyadic, small group, or mass communication. . . . Partners in conversation continually respond to one another in back-and-forth fashion; in small groups, participants expect interruptions for purposes of clarification or redirection. However, because the receiver of the message in mass communication is physically removed from the messenger, feedback is delayed until after the event, as in TV ratings.

"Public speaking offers a middle ground between low and high levels of feedback. Public speaking does not permit the constant exchange of information between listener and speaker that happens in conversation, but audiences can and do provide ample verbal and non-verbal cues to what they are thinking and feeling. Facial expressions, vocalizations (including laughter or disapproving noises), gestures, applause, and a range of body movements all signal the audience's response to the speaker." (Dan O'Hair, Rob Stewart, and Hannah Rubenstein, Speaker's Guidebook: Text and Reference, 3rd ed. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007)

Peer Feedback

"[S]ome researchers and classroom practitioners remain unconvinced of the merits of peer feedback for L2 student writers, who may not have the linguistic knowledge base or intuitions to give accurate or helpful information to their classmates . . .." (Dana Ferris, "Written Discourse Analysis and Second Language Teaching." Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning, Volume 2, ed. by Eli Hinkel. Taylor & Francis, 2011)

Feedback in Conversations

Ira Wells: Mrs. Schmidt asked me to move out. That place next door to you, is that still empty?
Margo Sperling: I don't know, Ira. I don't think I could take it. I mean you just never say anything, for God's sake. It's not fair, because I have to keep up my side of the conversation and your side of the conversation. Yeah, that's it: you just never say anything, for God's sake. I want some feedback from you. I want to know what you think about things . . . and what you think about me.
(Art Carney and Lily Tomlin in The Late Show, 1977)

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Feedback in Communication Studies." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Feedback in Communication Studies. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Feedback in Communication Studies." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).