Verbal feedback… from a distance

eLearning eXpress – 18/11/16

This morning’s eLearning eXpress, led by Adam Norton (Year Leader for Yr9 and DT teacher) was a great session to end the week on…

Following on from a great 15 Minute Forum about coded marking, this was another session spent discussing a strategy for providing feedback from a distance (i.e. outside the classroom) in a way that is time-efficient…

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We’ve been using Showbie since the very beginning  of our 1-to-1 iPad deployment, though it isn’t exclusively an iPad app – staff and students can (and do, for certain things) use the web platform rather than the iPad. It is absolutely something that could work for you even in the absence of tablet technology. It is one of several platforms for collecting student work and providing feedback, instigating learning dialogue, signposting students to resources and/or links, and connecting with them more generally. It is used widely across the school: students like it, staff like it and, when used in certain ways, can be a significant time-saver.

We’ve talked (and I’ve blogged) about laborious approaches to providing written feedback to students, and we’re taking strides towards striking a sensible balance. As we’ve moved along this journey, Adam said himself that he’s tried a few different approaches, all of which have left him tired, bored and looking for another way!

And so the teachers in our DT team, like some others around school, have been experimenting with recording verbal feedback rather than writing it out.

Adam talked us through the steps in how you actually do it (see the slideshow for the walk-through)…

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Amongst the hints and tips that Adam shared was the idea that after you’ve recorded your feedback, you can listen back to it before deciding whether to commit it to the students assignment. This is quite handy in itself in terms of being able to ‘moderate’ your own marking, for example in those situation where you’ve marked a few more pieces and decide you need to go back and adjust an earlier feedback comment in light of looking at other pieces.

It is also possible to record multiple notes for separate pieces of work, or if you miss something out (there is no need to re-record the whole note!) It also opens the possibility for students to record their own responses and create an actual dialogue, if that is necessary.

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The benefits of being able to provide verbal feedback rather than having to write it are many. Key for me is that you are still able to provide a personal response to each individual student, but in a less laborious and time-consuming way (and, as Adam highlighted, not having a stack of books to deal with is also a psychological bonus!)

Being able to sit with the mark scheme and work in front of you and just talk through it without flitting back and forth with a pen and feedback sheet also feels less like you are flitting back and forth between things – just talk it through as you look at it. Striking a conversational approach to feeding back on the work also allows students to hear the tone, inflection, nuance etc of your voice – suddenly comments that seem stark or harsh on paper can be delivered in a more gentle manner without diluting it.

7There are some potential challenges that need to be considered, though none of them seem insurmountable. As Adam said,

“I can’t mark in front of the telly any more, but I can do it lying down on my bed!”

Let’s face it, nobody likes the sound of their own voice, and this can be an awkward part of listening back to the feedback – or, worse, having students listen back to your feedback… all of them… at the same time! That needs thinking about! But the sound of your own voice is something you’ll get over,

“I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is actually how I sound!”

You’ll need a quiet place to record your feedback (Adam has been known to hideout in the sound-proofed music practice rooms!), especially if you’re recording lengthy voice notes – you don’t want too much background noise, and nor do you want interruptions mid-flow!

At the end of the session, there was some discussion about whether voice notes are quite as helpful when it comes to identifying specific mistakes, in relation to SPaG for example. One suggestion was to separate out the identification of mistakes in the good old fashioned way, and sticking to the developmental feedback in the voice note. However, I rather think that the correction of SPaG can still be dealt with in a potentially powerful way, by simply stating in the voice note, for example, “there is a spelling error in the first paragraph – find it and fix it!”. Such an approach would fit nicely with the message we are trying to push that feedback should be more work for the student than for the teacher! Worth a try…

Once the students get past the novelty (which won’t take long), they seem to like it. Though I was reminded of the comment relayed to me by Ceris Owen, our Subject Leader for DT, made by one of her A Level students following an early foray into providing verbal feedback on Showbie: “Miss, thanks for the feedback. Can I just say though, it was a bit weird hearing your voice in my bedroom!”… LoL, as the kids might say…

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Author: L&T Magpie

Assistant Headteacher (L&T)

1 thought on “Verbal feedback… from a distance”

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