Using technology to revisit assessment and teaching practice (Cinzia Bacilieri & Cathy Dantec – University of York) explored how the use of technology – specifically screencast tools and e-portfolios – helped the presenters to rethink their approaches to the delivery of feedback to students. Citing Yorke (2003) they emphasized the importance of delivering multi-layered and multi-dimensional feedback, addressing a range of functions including:
- Correction – addressing inaccuracies
- Reinforcement of targeted learning
- Forensic diagnosis – homing in on the whys and wherefores of common errors
- Benchmarking – enabling students to measure their own progress – where they have come from in terms of their own learning as well as where they ‘sit in relation to the cohort
- Longitudinal development – focusing on the feed forward of lessons learned to future assessment activities.
Through the use of screen casting software, Cathy demonstrated how errors and comments could be annotated to indicate the nature of the error or comment that she wanted to make on a student’s piece of written work, based on the dimensions listed above, and could add a ‘voice over’ comment to deliver her feedback. Students received a personal series of voice messages, with feedback easy to follow and explanatory at various levels (e.g. addressing grammar, style, structure and argumentation). Students’ experiences of this process have been very positive, with individuals noting that the combination of tools (voice, highlighter and typed comments) make the feedback more memorable and personal, with clearer justification of the grade that is arrived at. Students tend to be more actively engaged in processing the feedback, following the audio and visual prompts.
However, one of the questions arising from the discussion was the time allowance that was required by the instructor to mark students’ scripts in this way, with over half an hour per student, representing very much a ‘gold plated’ feedback service to students. Worryingly only half of the cohort had bothered to feedback their experiences in engaging with this new approach, which suggests that students can soon take for granted the time and effort that staff invest in reviewing and marking their work in this way. However, from a personal perspective, Cathy remarked that this approach helped to address a number of key aspects about a student’s piece of work at the same time and explain how they are related (e.g. language, content and structure). It also made the marker aware of the complexity and potential of effective feedback, and through the personal voice in her comments to introduced an emotional dimension to the delivery of feedback.
Cinzia described how she had used an e-portfolio tool to enable her students to submit formative assessment assignments. The portfolio space provided a record of submitted work in date order and a private space for personalised feedback and peer-tutor conversations. Students were encouraged to view the portfolio as a meta-learning tool, to reflect on their own learning and the progress that they had made by reviewing past assignments and the feedback that they had received. It was therefore used an active learning tool, to provoke reflection on a student’s progress, and was intended for far greater use than a record of the assignments that had been completed to date. Feedback from the tutor was again based on a multi-layered approach, which addressed the format of the assignment (students were free to choose their preferred delivery approach – video / audio), as well as the targeted learning – i.e. the application of the language in a practical context.
One of the key benefits for this approach was the security of the medium, providing a record of achievement and personal progress and a two-way communication channel where a student has the opportunity to ask for individual feedback and further explanation without losing face.
In summary, both the screen casting and e-portfolio approaches demonstrated how the instructors had reflected on the construction of their feedback to students, whilst at the same time thinking about how students make sense of the feedback and apply it to their future learning. In this sense the choice of the technology used by the marker is not the key issue to consider – (it’s worth noting that there are many screen casting and portfolio solutions which are free to use) – with the emphasis more on the philosophy of delivering personal and multi-layered feedback to learners.