Saturday, 3 May 2014

Audio-visual feedback: a "win-win" solution for teachers and learners?

Feedback matters hugely, learners on academic courses and study programmes tell us (Debuse et al. 2007; Pepper & Pathak 2008: both cited by Matthisen 2012). Their expectations towards feedback are high, but teachers are regularly pressed for time. The sad reality is that often, facing larger classes or increased workloads, many teachers have in recent years responded by reducing the frequency of assignments - not good news.

Clearly the time factor is a big deal when it comes to feedback. But must we assume all is lost? What if it were possible to deliver personalized, specific feedback to students in far less time than would be the case with a standard, written response - using the latest ICT tools? What if the learners could hear their teacher's voice, too? Wouldn't that be motivating for them as well as faster for the teacher to deliver?

Relevance and Rationale
This is where audio-visual feedback comes in. It's particularly good in the case of language teaching as students get additional authentic listening practice into the bargain, but the benefits can be felt by students everywhere. In the following video, Russell Stannard explains how he first began using JING, a freely available screen capture tool, to deliver feedback to students: is also a great introduction to the tool! It's actually quite easy to use once you've got the basic idea.

Propensity to foster language learning
Audio-visual feedback has a number of obvious advantages. It's faster to deliver, students get authentic listening practice, and hearing their teacher's voice makes the feedback feel more personal: many report feeling closer to their teacher as a result. Plus, such techniques can be used for group as well as for individual feedback!

A recent study into students' and teachers' impressions of screen capture feedback in Norway (Matthisen 2012) has also confirmed the following:
  • Students regard feedback as more precise, more nuanced, and more inspiring.
  • "Learning dividends" increase in other ways - over and above the benefits of "dual coding" (reading and listening at the same time), the student-teacher relationship improves.
  • Teachers also rated it highly: they found the feedback to be more efficient, precise and of higher quality.

Limitations - and a possible alternative
JING is a fantastic tool in many ways, but the amount of feedback you give orally can easily be excessive. In a meta-analysis of a large number of second language acquisition studies, Kim (2013) points out that by no means all corrective feedback is understood - so Stannard is right to advise in another follow-up video that feedback should have a particular focus to it (e.g. consistent sources of error) rather than aim to correct everything in an extended piece of work.

Looking at matters from a different perspective, there may also be issues with JING's five-minute limit for recordings from time to time. However, more flexible solutions are available nowadays, so teachers shouldn't get frustrated. For example, Kaizena is a new tool which integrates seamlessly with Google Docs - and allows short recordings (without any time limit) to be attached to colour-coded blocks of text, or paragraphs, as you can see in the following IELTS essay feedback demonstration:

All in all, I think the future of feedback is looking brighter - and the arrival of Kaizena on the scene means teachers now have significant options. Faster, better feedback and a better relationship with your learners: what more could you want? If you're tempted, why not give it a go yourself.

Kim, J.H. (2013). “Learner Understanding of Written Corrective Feedback and its Relationship with Immediate Uptake and Retention in EFL Classrooms”. English Teaching, Vol. 68, No. 3, Autumn 2013.

Matthisen, P. (2012). Video Feedback in Higher Education - A Contribution to Improving the Quality of Written Feedback”. In: Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy (2012): Nr 02.

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