"Written feedback doesn't make sense": Enhancing assessment feedback using technologies

Year: 2016

Author: Ryan, Tracii, Henderson, Michael, Phillips, Michael

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Assessment feedback is an integral aspect of the learning process. Research reveals that effective assessment feedback should be clear, specific, and sensitive to the individual. However, in practice, assessment feedback is commonly provided in a text-based format, which can be perceived by students as ambiguous and impersonal. Emerging research has demonstrated that multi-modal technologies (e.g., video, audio, and screencast recordings) may present a more personal and unambiguous alternative to text-based feedback. These results support media richness theory, which argues that audiovisual media tend to be less equivocal and richer in communication cues than text. However, at this stage, research in this area has been restrained to the higher education setting. Our paper builds upon previous research by examining perceptions of multi-modal assessment feedback in an Australian Catholic girl’s secondary school. Thirteen secondary school teachers provided multi-modal feedback to students from eight broad subject areas (English, Math, Science, IT, Languages, Psychology, Music, and PE/Health) across Grades 7-12. To gauge perceptions of the multi-modal assessment feedback, 261 students completed an anonymous online survey and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 5 teachers. In support of previous research, the majority of students preferred multi-modal feedback to text-based feedback, reporting that it was more individualised, detailed, clear, useful, and caring. Similarly, teachers felt that multi-modal assessment feedback was direct and effective. We argue that these outcomes were enabled by the richness of the media, but can also be explained by the structure of the feedback design. Further research should aim to examine the complex relationship between the affordances of the media itself, the instructional content and its structure, and the ecology of the individual classes.