In order to optimise any assessment, continuous or otherwise, in terms of a learning experience for the student, feedback is crucial (Race, 2007). Group work and peer evaluation will reduce the lecturers workload to a certain extent, however the challenge of issuing timely feedback is still an issue. Descriptive feedback, given directly after an assignment has been completed, informs our students of strengths and areas in need of improvement and allows them to address these items before they embark on the next assignment or final draft. Lecturers reported that this eliminates the need to correct similar items in consecutive assignments/drafts and saves both the student and the lecturer time and energy. Nevertheless, planning time for giving students effective feedback is an important and challenging aspect of the teaching and learning process. Providing feedback on a regular basis to students can dramatically increase the workload of the lecturer. In an effort to reduce the time given to formative feedback without suffering any loss to the student, the lecturer can replace typed feedback with audio, using digital audio technology to record spoken word feedback Research from the literature reveal that audio commentary positively affected students’ perceptions of their motivation, self-confidence, revision practices, student/professor bond, and overall leaming in ways written commentary did not (Sipple, 2007).
Audio feedback possesses a number of advantages over typed feedback (Rotheram, 2009):
- It is much faster to record audio feedback. This is particularly beneficial when large numbers of students are making submissions.
- Students can listen to feedback and whilst browsing their submission. This was singled out by students as the primary reason for their preference for audio feedback.
- Vocal tone, cadence and inflection are lost with written and typed feedback.
There are several technologies available to record audio feedback. The software used in this research was a free program called “Audacity”. There was over 80 first year chemistry students in the science department in IT Tallaght. Each week a student completed a laboratory practical and an associated assignment. Traditionally this assignment was a laboratory report submitted in a hardback laboratory notebook. This results in a workload in excess of 80 lab books to be corrected on a weekly basis just from one class. In addition the majority of the time in the lab for the lecturer was spent giving feedback to the students on an individual basis on the previous laboratory session. Consequently postgraduate demonstrators “led” the laboratory practical. This was not an efficient method for either the student or the lecturer in terms of student learning. In the second semester of first year the assessment procedures for the laboratory sessions were revised significantly. Part of these revisions included a more prompt individualised feedback for laboratory reports. Using “Audacity” the lecturer recorded comments while correcting each report. Students then received personalised audio feedback on their laboratory reports distributed via the Learning Management System (Moodle). Furthermore significant time was saved by using a series of generic recordings for the introduction, results, discussion and conclusion sections of a lab report. For each section the lecturer recorded feedback for poor, average and good elements of the report. Individualised feedback was then provided to the student by combining the appropriate sections of feedback into one audio file. Although sceptical at first, the students provided very positive feedback at the end of the semester evaluations. Future research is planned to conduct both quantitative and qualitative analysis on the impact of providing audio feedback for laboratory reports.
I would really appreicate comments from anybody who has used audio feedback in their classroom or if you have any good links to research conducted by others or useful resources available.