Feedback with Volume

3 mins reading

Our research into feedback practices has found that students and staff find feedback practices largely unsustainable, de-motivating and without opportunity for improvement.

The sobering findings outlined in Michael Henderson’s Conversation article ‘Universities are failing their students through poor feedback practices‘ scream out to be paid attention to. I’m fortunate to not only work at an institution where a good deal of research on effective feedback is currently taking place, but also where innovations in teaching approaches are readily embraced. Yet a lot more work needs to be done in this area given feedback’s central role in the learning process.

Feedback can be formal or informal, might be provided by teachers, peers, and industry, and takes on a range of different forms. My narrow focus here is to briefly reflect on the potential uses and benefits of audio feedback by teachers on formally assessed tasks (i.e. those tasks that are marked). Ever since I discovered its various benefits, I’ve been promoting the strategy wherever and whenever I get the chance…

Let’s start with a comment from a source that matters most:

audio feedback.png

This message sent by a student is representative of a substantial number of compliments my tutors and I get each and every year about the use of audio feedback. Importantly, there is no single and ‘correct’ way in which audio might be integrated into an assessment process. Depending on the nature of the discipline and assessment task, the use of audio might range from forming the lengthy backbone of feedback given, to being a short file that supplements more detailed written commentary.

Given my own area and approach, I tend to employ the former option and routinely find myself speaking to students for 7+ minutes. Within this time frame, I can articulate highly detailed and personalised comments and advice that would take considerably longer to write down (and would in any case be unlikely to be read!) Some other benefits of providing audio feedback include being able to:

  • Vary one’s tone and vocabulary more naturally (with practice) than is often the case when providing repetitive written feedback;
  • Encourage students to look at their work while listening, which can be particularly useful when feedback can only be returned 2-3 weeks after submitting a task;
  • Speak from dot points made while reviewing student work – this is more difficult to do in a compelling way if providing video feedback on screen;
  • Make marking a significantly more efficient process, although it might be time-consuming initially while getting used to recording;
  • Enjoy the marking process more by engaging in a more ‘intimate conversation’ about the student’s work; and
  • Provide a more enjoyable, constructive, and motivating experience by creating an auditory space that diminishes the focus on numerical grading and in which students can be engaged not only cognitively, but affectively (more on this theme in tomorrow’s blog).

The effectiveness of audio feedback is reliant on multiple factors, from the manner in which it’s produced to how it’s received (i.e. providing audio still relies on students listening to it, which isn’t always guaranteed). Nonetheless, the student feedback I’ve received so far on this kind of teacher feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

What have your experiences of giving and receiving feedback been?

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