Communication skills supervisors' monitoring of history-taking performance: an observational study on how doctors and non-doctors use cues to prepare feedback

Michaela Wagner-Menghin*, Anique B. H. de Bruin, Jeroen J. G. van Merrienboer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)


Background Medical students need feedback to improve their patient-interviewing skills because self-monitoring is often inaccurate. Effective feedback should reveal any discrepancies between desired and observed performance (cognitive feedback) and indicate metacognitive cues which are diagnostic of performance (metacognitive feedback). We adapted a cue-utilization model to studying supervisors' cue-usage when preparing feedback and compared doctors' and non-doctors' cue usage. Method Twenty-one supervisors watched a video of a patient interview, choose scenes for feedback, and explained their selection. We applied content analysis to categorize and count cue-use frequency per communication pattern (structuring/facilitating) and scene performance rating (positive/negative) for both doctors and non-doctors. Results Both groups used cognitive cues more often than metacognitive cues to explain their scene selection. Both groups also used metacognitive cues such as subjective feelings and mentalizing cues, but mainly the doctors mentioned 'missing information' as a cue. Compared to non-doctors, the doctors described more scenes showing negative performance and fewer scenes showing positive narrative-facilitating performance. Conclusions Both groups are well able to communicate their observations and provide cognitive feedback on undergraduates' interviewing skills. To improve their feedback, supervisors should be trained to also recognize metacognitive cues, such as subjective feelings and mentalizing cues, and learn how to convert both into metacognitive feedback.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2020


  • Communication skills
  • Feedback
  • Monitoring
  • Accurate self-judgements
  • Undergraduate medical education

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