Show and Tell, Wed 2 December – Delivering formative feedback to students

Our Show & Tell session for the Autumn term was on the theme of ‘Delivering formative feedback to students, including the use of audio and video feedback’ and took place on Wednesday 2 December. Our guest speaker was Bill Soden from the Department of Education, who is currently using audio to deliver formative feedback to students. The ELDT also presented on a number of tools and technologies that are available that can be used to deliver effective formative feedback. Slides from both ours and Bill’s presentations can be found below.

Bill Soden – Delivering formative feedback using screencasts and audio

Bill’s interest in using audio and video for feedback started when he began to conduct his own Action Research as part of his PhD. Bill had started off by providing audio ‘podcasts’ as feedback to accompany written comments, which then evolved into his current formative feedback workflow of annotating essays in the VLE’s Grade Centre and uploading an accompanying .mp4 file of the narrated screencast video.

Bill has found that using 5 minutes of audio and/or a narrated screencast video provides more depth to his feedback and students appreciate the tone of encouragement, despite some of the critical comments in the feedback. The videos allow for a personal, nuanced tone that is not possible with solely written comments and having a 5 minute video for each student is a more scalable workflow than trying to organise a 30 minute face to face or telephone conversation with every student. Bill emphasised that he adopts a ‘quick and dirty’ approach to creating the feedback videos and doesn’t try to produce perfectly slick, edited videos. This approach also means that, after the initial time taken to learn how to use the screencast software has been taken into account, creating a 5 minute feedback video would take approximately 25 minutes, once he had read the transcripts and thought about the main points. The ‘quick and dirty’ approach doesn’t demand rehearsal time and gives an image of trust and authenticity. Bill’s research found that students did sometimes listen to the feedback more than once, sometimes for comprehension for students’ who don’t have English as a first language, as the ‘quick and dirty’ approach meant that Bill often spoke quite fast and students wanted to pause the recordings to take notes or replay certain sections.

Bill did mention that while focus groups with students revealed that many of them were watching the videos more than once and that they appreciated the personal nature of this form of feedback, they still valued the written comments very highly and preferred written-only feedback for summative work. It was also asked during the session whether Bill had been able to gauge the impact of when exactly the students ‘got it’ when it came to ‘feeding forward’ their feedback to improve later assessments, and he admitted that it was hard to gauge this from his research so far. Bill’s approach effectively forces students to engage with the videos to get their feedback but it is harder to measure whether students are actively learning from the feedback itself without taking into account a myriad of other factors. It was suggested in the discussion during the session that an additional part of the feedback process could be to get students to make their own audio/video recordings in response to their initial feedback, to make it a dialogical process and to also act as a measure of their understanding.

Bill’s tips for making the feedback recordings

The points below are taken from Bill’s slide deck, which can be accessed via the link above.

  • Provide personal greeting
  • Give brief overview of main points to cover – for example: deal with strengths first, such as relevant points and organisation before moving on to areas of weakness such as use of evidence.
  • Avoid focus on too many small errors
  • Ensure points in text margin comments are elaborated on and not simply repeated
  • If time, summarise
  • Limit recording as close to 5 mins as possible

Software considerations

Learning a new software can often be a barrier to trying out a new workflow. Bill mentioned that he currently uses a software called Snagit editor, which has a small cost (under £25 for an educational licence) but has effective editing tools, renders and publishes video quickly and is relatively easy to use in comparison to more sophisticated screencasting software such as Camtasia.

The university’s supported Replay ‘At-Desk’ Recorder software could also be used to make screencast videos and share these easily with individual students by their username. There are a number of free screencasting softwares available online if you wish to attach videos in the feedback. Out of the free, web-based ones that are available, Screencast-O-Matic is the one that we would recommend in terms of ease of use and the ability to be able to save your files as .mp4 files – as many of the free online tools require you to automatically publish your screencasts online. If you do decide to use a third-party tool, please see our guidance on using external IT services. Our screencast software comparison, linked below, compares the functionality of Camtasia, Replay ‘At-Desk’ Recorder and Screencast-o-matic to give you an idea of what to expect from different types of screencasting software.

How the ELDT can support different methods of providing formative feedback

After Bill’s presentation, ELDT members provided an overview of some of the supported tools available, such as the VLE’s built-in assignment, blog and wiki tools and Replay ‘At-Desk’ Recorder for recording screencasts. We can provide advice and guidance on any of the tools outlined in the Prezi below and can also help if you want to experiment with recording audio feedback and/or screencasts. Section 6.8 of the York TEL Handbook also covers forms of feedback and has links to technical guidance as well as example workflows that could be used by your department.

Click the image below to view the Prezi from the session.

Click image to access the Prezi presentation from the session.

As always, we welcome any feedback and suggestions for future sessions. Fill in our suggestions form if you have ideas about what we could cover in future events. If you have any questions about anything in this post and would like to consult with us about using a particular tool for formative feedback, email vle-support@york.ac.uk. Future workshops and events will be advertised on our Development Opportunities page.

Post updated 29 Nov 2016 to reflect change of our Replay software.

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