|Flickr Creative Commons Image by Pete O’Shea
|Enhancing Feedback from the University of Edinburgh
Co-director of the National Writing Project at Rutgers University, Sara Bauer published an article in 2011 in the English Journal on her experiences using audio comments to provide feedback to her high school writers. In her article "When I Stopped Writing on Their Papers: Accomodating the Needs of Student Writers with Audio Comments," Bauer writes, "...audio feedback enables my comments to become much more developed and targeted to the individual writer than they had been when I confined myself to cryptic and cramped notes written in the margins" (66). Using audio commentary allowed Bauer to more clearly develop her reactions to a student's written work, and in doing so, opened up opportunities for her students to reflect on their rhetorical choices. Bauer's comments were not limited to fixing grammatical or content errors, but instead focused on how she responded to her students' work as an interested reader. What did the writing evoke in her as a reader? What did it make her wonder? Where did her understanding break down? "The practice of making audio comments goes beyond assisting students with revising a particular assignment," Bauer writes. "I was able to target my instruction so that students could learn about themselves as writers and develop strategies for avoiding common pitfalls on future assignments, thereby strengthening their writing performance over the year" (66). However, Bauer used her audio comments in lieu of written feedback. Her comments were not a recording of an actual conferring session with her student writers. In some ways, her audio commentary was still her enacting her authority over the student's work as an instructor handing down directions for improvement.
online survey of writing teachers' attitudes and practices for providing students with feedback on their writing. Using social media and email, I have so far received responses from 22 educators from a diversity of teaching situations. Just over half of the respondants are from the greater Philadelphia area while the remaining hail from the Northeast of the United States to Canada's western coast. Educators from elementary school through collegiate level responded, and nearly all of the respondants voiced an interest in learning better strategies for providing student writers with timely, supportive feedback. Only three of the respondants felt confident in the ways in which they provided their student writers with feedback. Although a majority of the teachers who responded felt that they had more to learn about providing feedback, well over half had used digital tools to provide feedback to their students writers with varying degrees of success. Two of the teachers who responded were already using an audio recording Add-On in Google Drive to leave audio feedback on their students' written work. So there does seem to be an emerging trend of using digital tools to provide feedback and thus opening up possibilities as both teachers and students have the ability to access that feedback anywhere at any time. But the most often made comment was about timing and a wish for more time to work with students individually on their writing. Although this seems disappointing, in fact there is great opportunity here as using digital audio recordings during conferencing sessions may be a way to open up some of that time. Using and sharing audio recordings of conferences with a class of students may help to build a library of feedback which students would be able to access when and where ever they needed it. A digital library of recorded conversations with student writers about their writing process may be a helpful way to think about providing supportive feedback to practicing writers.
In the coming week, I hope to have more teachers complete my survey (hint, hint), and I also am looking to interview a few teachers who are already using audio tools to provide student writers with feedback. My goal is the connect with those teachers that are using digital tools to audio record comments in order to pilot the idea of recording conferencing sessions in addition to trying this approach in my own classroom. And I would love to hear from you!