Event Review: A Personal Voice? – Effective audio feedback

I recently attended a one day event funded by the HEA at the University of Leicester all about audio feedback. It was an interesting day where I got to hear what practices exist at other institutions and to pick up on some key areas to think about when considering using audio feedback. So here is a summary of some of the key things I picked up on.

Fear – Getting over the microphone in front of your face, the sound of your own voice and the pressure of recording something permanent are the first stumbling blocks. Perhaps try  engaging with podcasting as a precursor to providing audio feedback, this will help you to get familiar with your recorded voice and also with the audio technology you are using.

Time – The time saved through recording the feedback, as opposed to typing, can often be outweighed by the additional time needed to upload and distribute the files to the correct student. This is largely dependent on the technology you are using but also on the number of students you are feeding back to.

Tone – Consider the tone you use whilst recording your audio comments. This can often convey more meaning than just words and provides you with the opportunity to deliver difficult but important messages which can be hard to do via text alone. It is the conversational nature of the feedback which is often missing from text that students appreciate.

Language – Is the language used within audio feedback linguistically different from text based feedback? Preliminary findings of a study being done at Leicester seem to suggest that this is the case. It suggests that we are less likely to use phrases which are harder to understand and qualify our feedback with examples, creating a more conversational approach to the feedback.

To script or not to script – Students tend to find anything that is heavily scripted impersonal and often a little robotic to listen to. At the same time if you do not structure it then you may ramble and make the audio too long, with students switching off half way through. This is why you need to think about…

Structure and Organisation – Warren Kidd (University of East London) developed a useful framework which helped him to structure the feedback focusing on:

  • Purpose
  • Length,
  • How it starts,
  • When the grade/mark is released,
  • Relationship between the audio and written feedback
  • Whether the students work is specifically referred to in the feedback (e.g. on page 3 you….)

He also focused on feed-forward so that rather than just talking about mistakes he provided specific points for improvement, focusing on the most important three. Remember to explain to your students why and how they are being assessed and the format the feedback will take so they can get the most out of relating it back to their own learning.

Blend text and audio feedback – It was widely acknowledged during the session that providing both audio and written feedback would be too time consuming for academics. However it was felt that there might be a compromise by using a tool like Grademark. This would allow you to provide limited in-context feedback by annotating the student work as well as recording a 3 minute general overview of the work in the in-built audio recorder.

Feedback as a dialogue – Warren Kidd at the University of East London, talked about his experience of using audio feedback with his students. He used a post-feedback task to get students to engage critically with their audio feedback helping them to deepen their learning. You could then follow this up through in class discussion to encourage dialogue around feedback.

Thank you to all the participants at the event for sharing their ideas and providing me with some excellent ideas for good practice.

2 thoughts on “Event Review: A Personal Voice? – Effective audio feedback

  1. Really interesting. I have seen this kind of work using audio feedback within student portfolios in schools. Teachers used audio feedback with text and visuals of student work particularly CAD work where aspects of student work being outlined in the feedback were highlighted on screen as the feedback recording played.The recording could be paused and re-run.

    Students more frequently revisited their work to review the feedback than they had previously to use it formatively for further learning. They tended to revisit more often and more frequently than they did with hard copy text feedback. The impacts on individual learning in terms of target grades showed the greater engagement with feedback was positive but there were further impacts on learner enagement with feedback in text and face to face dialogues in that some students began to ask questions when receiving feedback in writing or verbally.

    Was there anything in the work of researchers that demonstrated the impacts on learning and attainment of using audio feedback?

    with some research projects in schools it was apparent that audio feedback took more time and tended to be more comprehensive when this was first introduced in schools a few years ago so the time saving for marking and feedback was not an outcome of the switch.

    • Hi Ruth, thank you for the comment. Unfortunately most of the speakers talked about the student experience rather than achievement. Warren Kidd from the University of East London did mention that students improved their work based on the feedback that was given but because he got them to complete a reflective activity based on the feedback it was hard to tell whether it was the audio recording alone which improved achievement or the activity forcing them to engage with what was said.

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