Does formative feedback always have to take written form? The author’s experiment with “one take” audio/video feedback met with a very positive student response.
Providing students with clear and personalized feedback that moves student learning forward can be tricky. Last term I experimented with using technology as a medium for student feedback in an undergraduate education class. In one class assignment, I asked students to provide their reflections on learning by drawing on our class readings and responding to question prompts designed to guide and provoke thinking. I did not specify the format or medium to use for the reflection, nor did the students ask about the format. I only provided a rubric with criteria to use as a guide for the reflections. Not surprisingly, the majority of students submitted reflections using textual evidence in a standard essay-style format. I responded to each student providing formative feedback, with no grades and only using written commentary related to the criteria for the assignment.
When it came time for a second reflection of learning, I requested students use a different medium than the one used for their first submission. For most, that meant moving away from their original written format. I noticed students were a bit anxious about this request and after some class discussion and a reminder that I would provide only formative feedback (no grade), students seemed okay with accepting this challenge and creating a reflection using a different format.
I also emphasized that it was not necessary to create an edited, polished version and I encouraged “one-take” productions. Many of the students chose to use audio and video formats to submit their second reflections. I also challenged myself to prepare formative feedback in a corresponding format. So, if a student submitted a podcast reflection, then I offered my formative feedback in an audio response. If a student submitted a video reflection, then I offered formative feedback in a video response. As I was reviewing student work, I found it helpful to make some jot notes of the key points I wanted to include in my feedback. Then I recorded my feedback as a one-take production and tried to keep it brief. I didn’t worry about the background and I didn’t edit or refine the recording before returning it to the student.
Time and technical issues are always noted as challenges when using technology in the classroom. It took me a similar amount of time to prepare one-take productions for feedback in audio or video format as it did in written format. I used the built-in features in the Learning Management System (LMS) to prepare my feedback and then return it to each student. However, the students used a variety of different programs to prepare their submissions, as I did not limit them to using built-in LMS features. I encouraged students to use programs or apps easily accessible on their own devices. I will admit that in a couple of instances I had to work through some technical issues to open the files, which added some extra time to the process for both the students and myself. I also asked students if they had any issues in accessing my feedback and they indicated they were easily able to open my feedback files, regardless of the type of device they were using to access the LMS.
I found that providing feedback using one-take productions can promote personalization and improve the clarity of feedback. Students shared with me how they appreciated hearing my voice and tone with the commentary. I also noted there was less room for misunderstanding the feedback. Here’s what one of my students shared with me after submitting a podcast reflection and receiving my audio feedback:
“Thank you for your comments on my podcast. I really liked receiving your audio feedback for this reflection. Hearing your voice and tone made it feel more personal, so it was nice to hear. I know we had discussed early in the year (which feels like forever ago) that written feedback can sometimes be read mistakenly, so I really see the value in audio feedback now. I think this is something I would use in my future classroom, especially at the elementary level. Also, the quality of your audio was great. Very clear! Thank you for using a different method for feedback, it was great!”1
This reflection from a teacher candidate demonstrates an appreciation for one-take productions and an interest in using this approach with future students. I offer the following tips to anyone interested in providing students with feedback using one-take productions:
- Make jot notes of key points to include in the feedback as you are reviewing students’ work.
- Don’t worry about what’s in the background or editing out normal background sounds/visuals (e.g. phone, family, pets). As long as they are not too distracting and don’t obscure the feedback, it’s not necessary.
- Provide your feedback using a conversational style.
- Keep it brief (one to three minutes).
- Be yourself.
First published in Education Canada, June 2019
1 Personal Communication October 17, 2018 with Gabrielle Gilbert-Murray. Permission was granted to use the quote for this article.