When you teach at a distance it can be quite difficult to have a conversation with students, particularly if you have limited connection and 1-1 synchronous contact is limited (or even non-existent). A good alternative is to use blended audio feedback on student work, whether for progress or grading (formative or summative assessment) – and usually both.
Audio feedback helps bridge the gap between student and tutor by simply giving a (human) voice to the feedback, increasing your presence and reducing distance. Using your voice allows you to mediate your comments, inflect your thinking in what you say, as well as provide a critical human connection with your students.
A key to this recipe is the written feedback sheet – this is the blended part. Research shows that, whilst students prefer audio feedback, they may use it immediately (on receipt) to get a sense of the feedback but they can find it difficult to use at a later date (and retrospectively as they work). Having a summary sheet they can quickly refer to and make use of helps with this.
Tutors and students needing to engage in feedback at a distance
30-40 minutes per student (to do it properly!)
Can take a while to get used to doing this – keep practising!
- Student work that can be assessed at a distance
- Good feedback practice and framework(s)
- Audio recording software
- Summary feedback pro-forma
From our experience and research we have found that the following method works well to organise your feedback and make sure you do everything: Start with the assessment and written summary; move on to the audio feedback itself; package it all up with an overall summary.
Summary feedback sheet
- Assess the student work as you normally would, using whatever frame / rubric / marking guide to support this. As you do, make a particular note of any critical issues that must be resolved urgently and that will require more attention than other, less important issues.
- Complete the summary feedback sheet writing summary points that are short, relate to feedback, and give clear direction or actions that the student should take or might consider.
- Make a note of any general or overriding design process issues (e.g. “Good overall creative design ideas; more time on working out detail was needed”)
(You can see an example of the feedback sheet we use at the bottom of this recipe)
Your audio feedback should be based on the summary points from the
- Record your audio feedback:
- Have a starting phrase you use each time: “This is feedback on Project X, Phase Y for [STUDENT]. Hello [STUDENT], this was a good attempt at this stage…”
- Keep the tone semi-formal: you should be informative and authoritative about those things you can be; you should ask questions and offer thoughts on things you don’t know about.
- Make your thinking audible: audio that genuinely considers the student’s work will automatically sound more genuine. If you’re unsure about something, say so and explain how you decided to assess that.
- It’s fine to include ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ and all the other sounds that make us human (mostly…).
- Your feedback comments should expand on the written summary points and should, where possible, follow the classic modified feedback pattern:
- State the expected (reference) level of work
- State the achieved level of work
- Outline the difference and what led to this
- Outline the changes necessary to affect this difference in future work (<this is the key one!)
- Aim for audio feedback of around 3-5 minutes. As a rule of thumb, 1 minute = 1MB file size.
Overall Feedback Summary
- Check over your feedback and package it up.
- Return your feeback to student(s) with an overall written summary that captures the general feedback. Include in this feedforward – try to give students:
- Two things to avoid doing in future or keep working on
- Two things they could do more of
- (Optional, depending on assessment type) Ask your students to respond to your feedback by asking any questions or summarising their own list of things they will do next.
Notes and tips:
See the recipe Podcast for Learning for even more tips and ideas on using audio
There can be accessibility issues with using audio only – both positive and negative! Make use of your knowledge of your students and ASK what modes of feedback they prefer
Example written and summary feedback document: