Today I have travelled to Leicester to hear from colleagues at the U of Leicester and elsewhere about ‘the whys and wherefores of effective audio feedback’.
The day began with an overview from Alex Moseley from the U of Leicester reporting on the two research projects around which today circulates. These projects (A Personal Voice and AUDIBLE) have focused on the pedagogy and the linguistics aspects of audio feedback. They found that the pedagogy and practice is dominated by podcasting while there is a dearth of evidence on the practice and effectiveness of audio feedback itself.
The first half or the day has been very hands-on with practical activities to give us a very tangible sense of the differences between written and audio feedback. We’ve experimented with lots of tools, including a voice recorder, adobe PDF on a PC, explain everything on an iPad and Jing on a PC. A lot of the discussion afterwards has focussed on the emotional side of things as well as the practical and the pedagogical. Lots of food for thought including what about audio feedback is different to written feedback and what about it is the same. You can see the fruits of our layout in the image attached to this post.
After lunch we heard from Jennifer Beard, the research assistant on the two projects that are nearing their completion here at the U of Leicester. It’s clear that the student and staff response to audio feedback has brought lots of positives. It’s interesting to consider that an unfamiliar accent or a speech impediment could be similar to bad handwriting for students in terms of finding it difficult to interpret.
Some of the key points the project investigated are:
- Contiguity – associating the feedback with the section of their work to which it refers.
- Working memory – looking specifically at the difference between chunked up feedback and holistic feedback
- Personal vs community experiences – using audio feedback for group feedback vs individual feedback. Students feel like they are more of a class if they get the general feedback but they also value the individual and personal feedback available.
- Summative vs formative assessment – that using audio feedback for Summative feedback riskier than for formative
- Nuance – does the audio format change the way we phrase things?
They found that students preferences for the type of feedback varied from task to task which is interesting, but the need for a hybrid approach (with some written and some spoken) seems preferable. This, of course, raises a workload issue for academic staff who are Ffestiniog being asked to do more than they are currently. When the added load of returning audio feedback to students is factored in, the false economy seems even more stark.
Warren Kidd from the U of East London reported on his experience of using audio feedback in his role as a teacher trainer. He explained that voice is a big part of the learning in this discipline which makes the fact that they never gave or thought of giving audio feedback on assessment seem quite strange. He talked about coming to terms with the awkwardness and anxiety that comes with recording your voice (that is quite a natural response) in order to do this effectively. He says that in an assessment for learning context, feedforward is more important than feedback. He offered some really constructive advice on approaching the task of providing audio feedback: not to script them but to ‘skeleton’ them. This means doing a quick list of some dot points that the feedback will cover before pressing the record button. He mentioned, very convincingly, that audio adds ‘technicolor and texture’ to the feedback and that students are used to receiving audio from us.
He emphasised the importance of making students write something about their feedback and the impact this has on their learning. He went over some of the conversations that colleagues needed to have before using the audio feedback thinking through quite practical as well as from pedagogical grounds. Many of these questions are immaterial to the use of audio feedback in Grademark because if the way it works, but it reminds us that, if nothing else, the value of these kinds of innovation may be in the conversations they encourage us to have. He gave us an example of his own audio feedback which was fascinating to hear. Discussion about when and how to disclose the mark (again immaterial in a Grademark context) and how to break bad news (such as work that has failed or is referred).
Finally we heard from Hedley Bashforth at the U of Bath (heard in the sense that he was unable to join us and had send audio files instead). He talked about how he came to audio feedback for formative feedback. He made specific mention of the workload implications of having to return feedback to students being so significant as to make it not worthwhile. He then gave us an example of his feedback which was really interesting to hear.
Some things to follow up: it’s worth looking at the work if Andrew Middleton at U of Sheffield who has done a lot of work on audio feedback.