Contributed by Chahna Gonsalves, King’s Business School.
This feedback intervention took place on a level 6 Brand Management module with 76 students. Students completed a mid-term assessment worth 25% of the module. They wrote a short report auditing a brand to identify a problem. In a teaching team of 3, we provided audio feedback on the first report, which formed the basis of their second brand analysis and recommendation report, worth 75% of the module.
Why did you introduce this feedback strategy?
I designed the assignment as a sequence of tasks so that the first report would feed into the second. I decided to give audio feedback so that I could deliver a more comprehensive explanation of the student’s strengths and weaknesses than I could in writing, at a point on the module where they could use the feedback to improve their next assignment.
In addition, some students do not read their written feedback. I was seeking to improve engagement with feedback. Unlike written text, we use our voice in multidimensional physical and semantic ways. I wanted to leverage voice to generate more personalised engaging and accessible feedback.
How do you approach giving feedback in this way?
Pre-marking meeting with the teaching team.
- Agree on a loose 3-4 sentence introductory “script”. We used the student’s name, explained our use of audio, and signposted them to the marking rubric.
- Discuss key points of the rubric and comments to make on each point.
- Set a flexible benchmark for recording length. We agreed on about 6 minutes per student.
- Agree on file names for saving. E.g., first name and surname initial.
- Agree on file upload frequency. E.g., every day in case of file loss.
- Agree on the technology to use.
One option is to use the audio feedback option on Turnitin. However, Turnitin has a limit of 3 minutes, and it can take a while to save and upload the audio before you can move on to the next assignment. I wanted to avoid these constraints.
Other options include using the recorder on your mobile phone, laptop, or free online software like Audacity. I used the recorder on my mobile phone and then uploaded the mp4 files as attachments via my laptop. My mobile phone generated smaller and audibly clearer files than recoding on my laptop. I chose a wireless option for flexibility in recording location. Teaching colleagues chose to use their mobiles and laptops with a mic, as they preferred.
Communicating with students
- Specify in advance where students will find the audio feedback file.
- Explain how to play or download it.
- What they can expect the feedback to cover.
What benefits did you see?
The quality of my feedback was higher. I was able to delve more deeply into the students’ assignment. There was greater opportunity to reflect on the strengths of the work and provide positive commentary. I found I focused on higher-level rather than granular feedback. When highlighting weaknesses of the work, I could explore possible strategies for problem solving, rather than just stating what the problems were. I found it much easier to pose questions, use examples and make suggestions related to improving the work. I also found myself referring to previous discussions with the student and relevant skills they could develop.
Accessing the audio file was the only way to get feedback. All 76 students clicked on their feedback file within 3 weeks of feedback being released.
Seventeen students participated in a focus group 4 weeks after receiving the audio-feedback. Sixty-five percent of students reported a clear preference for audio feedback, compared to 12 % who prefer written feedback. Twenty-three percent had no preference.
One student in favour of audio stated:
“I listened to it a few times, but each time I was focusing on something different that you said. And I felt like I understood your good feedback better and from your voice I could tell that you were helping me to make it better, but not just criticising.”
Students suggested that their feedback felt more personal as they could hear the emphasis in our voices making it easier to interpret the feedback. Students said that it felt we cared more about them, and the time we spend evaluating their work.
Student module evaluation responses to the question “I have received helpful and informative feedback” increased from 3.9/5 the previous year to 4.3/5.
What challenges have you encountered and how have you addressed them?
We ensured the assignment was not anonymous to achieve a high level of personalisation.
I had 3 students with learning differences (e.g., an auditory processing impairment) and neurodiversities (e.g., autism, ADHD). Audio feedback alone was not appropriate. For these students, I generated a transcript using Microsoft Word dictation tool, and offered both the written feedback in Turnitin and the audio file as an attachment.
What suggestions do you have for colleagues interested in trying this?
- Explore the available technologies first. Your recording space, using a wired mic or no mic at all, and the need to be connected to Wi-Fi will all play a role in your decision.
- Loosely script your introduction for consistency. Teaching colleagues found it tough to find a flow, but a script helped to get them off to more natural and confident start. Consider that, sticking too closely to script throughout the recording could lead to formulaic, unnatural, and inauthentic feedback.
- Follow the structure of your marking rubric or assessment criteria. Commenting on the student’s performance on key criteria and how they can improve helps to ensure the feedback is comprehensive, consistent, and fair.
- Speak naturally and don’t edit! Listening to that first recording you made is likely to feel a little disconcerting, but there is no need to edit. Students are accepting of the “uhms” and “ahs” which humanise the feedback. Express your thoughts or concerns as if the student were present. Using emotive language like “I thought it was great that you…” and “I really liked…” brings your feedback to life.
- Speak with the medium in mind. Make it easier for students to follow along with specific references to the work “on page 2 you suggested…,” “in the implications section…,” etc.