After some discussions with various colleagues, a couple of members of my department and I have been experimenting with how we give essay feedback to Year 12 and 13 students. We usually like to mix things up by using whole class feedback and 1-2-1 meetings (which are hugely beneficial but also time-consuming) that being said, we spend a lot of our marking time giving detailed individual written feedback.
I think it’s fair to say I was as excited as everybody else about the ‘Mark Mate’ pitch on Dragon’s Den (more on that in a Blog soon!) and the claim on Mark Mate’s website is that you speak at around 150 words per minute (and can write at around 30wpm). On top of this, I’m more and more convinced of the evidence that verbal feedback has real and direct impact on learning.
What if students were given a ‘walk through’ of their work in real time?
In recent months, I have starting toying with different sound recording apps on Android and online recording websites and have trialled ‘Recorded Verbal Feedback’ with one Year 13 and one Year 12 group. The basic principle is that the feedback takes the form of a recording of my voice which gives students a ‘walk through’ of their work.
The students have been overwhelmingly in favour of this approach, as shown by some of their comments collected in an informal pupil voice:
” If AO3 or AO2 are labelled in my work, I don’t always know what it means. Having the explanation from the audio helps me understand exactly what I need to do and I can do it there and then”Year 12 student, December 2018
Stupidly, I hadn’t fully considered the fact that students would be keen to know what every scribble or annotation of mine meant- sometimes I do them just for me (so that a quick glance at them to help me determine areas missing at the end of the work), but this student is absolutely right.
” Having this kind of feedback is helpful as it not only allows me to fully understand what I’m doing wrong and how to improve, but it’s much easier to take on criticism and apply it to my other essays”Year 12 student, December 2018
As this student notes, the barriers to understanding the written feedback by the teacher are removed, as the explanation has been given whilst any annotations have been made.
So, how does it work?
I’ve experimented with a few methods and have found the following to be the best process for my setting:
- As you sit to mark essays, open a voice recording app on your mobile or laptop ( for me, I’ve found Vocaroo is a great online website which generates a link to the recording, which is easy to share with students via a shared area/ email. For Andriod phones, I have found that the Easy Voice Recorder is an excellent app as it automatically uploads your completed recordings into a folder of your choosing on Google Drive) Label the file with your student’s name and press record.
- I usually start the recording with a pre-amble, ‘ Hello __________, during this recording I’m going to be doing a live discussion of your essay on… You may notice a few periods of silence, that just means I’m reading’… Then I start reading the essay in silence.
- I label important talking points in the essay, something like: ‘ I’m just at point 1 now of your essay and I’ve noticed here how you… I’d like to see you develop this idea with more depth: could you __________/ ___________”.
- In the following lesson, ask students to bring their mobile phones and their earphones (have a laptop/ iPad/ computer spare for those who haven’t brought theirs) and students work independently through the feedback. They should be encouraged to pause at opportune moments and act on the feedback they’ve given.
Here’s a snippet of this in practice:
What are the benefits of recording your verbal feedback?
- Saves time during lessons in explaining what you meant when you annotated (sometimes loses its power as you may have marked these 32 essays ago!)
- Students have greater clarity in terms of areas for development and have a clearer sense of where things went well and can act on that feedback immediately
- Whilst it may not be a quick-win-time-saver, it takes me around the same time to mark, record and upload the feedback as it does to mark a standard set and I know the students are gaining much more from the feedback
- It’s free.
Wiliam, D (2016) ‘ Looking at student work’ , ASCD Educational Leadership, 75 (7) pp.10-15
‘ The only thing that matters is what the student does with the feedback. If the feedback you’re giving your students is producing more of what you want, then it’s probably good feedback. But if your feedback is getting you less of what you want, it probably needs to change’
I’d be really interested to hear from any colleagues who have used recorded verbal feedback in any other way.