Feedback is essential for learning and maximizing student achievement (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). Ideally, it is a dialogic process that reduces the gap between a student’s actual performance and the desired learning outcomes (Carless, 2006; Hattie & Timperley, 2007). However, the quality of feedback provided, how it is received, and its use can vary considerably. In the worst case, feedback can lead to adverse learning outcomes (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996). Therefore educators need to consider the quality and format of feedback (Boud & Malloy, 2013) and become feedback literate (Boud & Dawson, 2021).
Before widespread computer use, instructors offered handwritten comments on students’ assignments and tests (Sommers, 1989). Many students found this feedback unhelpful because comments were illegible, vague, limited in providing guidance, excessively focussed on errors and omissions, or inconsistent with the assignment learning goals (Glover & Brown, 2006; Weaver, 2006). Many educators shifted to text-based feedback with the advent of computers (Parkin et al., 2019). This shift in format helped overcome the challenge of deciphering illegible scratches (Glover et al., 2015; Hepplestone et al., 2011). However, other problems remained, including lack of detail (Pitt & Norton, 2017), the absence of pedagogical training for instructors (Richards et al., 2017), student difficulty in making connections between grades, feedback, and assessment criteria (Glover et al., 2015), and negative emotional responses elicited from feedback (Shields, 2015).
Video is a rich, expressive media that transmit much more information than text, images, or audio alone (Bahula & Kay, 2021). It captures movement and change. Subtle nuances are communicated by the tone of voice, facial expressions, and hand gestures. Much information is left to the reader’s imagination in many forms of written communication, while video makes many aspects of communication more explicit.
The use of video has significant potential to reshape assessment feedback (Bahula & Kay, 2021), particularly in online learning environments. Benefits cited in an extensive literature review for using video-based feedback included a more detailed, clearer, richer quality of feedback, increased understanding and higher-order thinking skills, more personal, authentic and supportive communication, and making the feedback process more interactive (Bahula & Kay, 2021). Using video feedback can help create a meaningful connection between you and your students (teaching presence in Garrison, 2011), develop a culture of collaborative assessment (Quinn et al., 2019) and stimulate a growth mindset (Dweck, 2007) and cognitive presence (Garrison, 2011). This chapter focuses on helping educators maximize the benefits of providing video feedback.
We have been providing video feedback for over a decade and would like to share some of the valuable lessons learned based on practice and a review of the research on teacher perspectives of using video feedback (Borup et al., 2015; Harper et al., 2015; Jones et al., 2012; Lamey, 2015; Mahoney et al., 2018).
- Make sure you purchase a good microphone. Do not use your laptop microphone to provide video feedback. Your voice needs to be clear and easy to hear. Distorted audio is not particularly helpful. Please consult the technology chapter for suggestions. We use Plantronics Headsets (about CAD$90), but Logitech Headsets are fine too (about CAD$30-40).
- Pick a good video recording tool. There are numerous options here, and they often depend on your preferences and pocketbook. Snagit for Education (about CAD$50) and Screencast-O-Matic (free) are easy-to-use screen recording tools. Screencast-O-Matic is particularly effective because you do not have to upload to YouTube to share – it is relatively automatic, which is essential for busy educators.
- Pace yourself. Pacing is essential when giving video feedback. Complete feedback for 8-10 assignments, then take a break. Otherwise, you may start to get tired, stressed, or frustrated, which may lead to a change in the tone of your voice. Video feedback is very personal (Henderson & Phillips, 2015), so you need to be aware of your tone.
- Choose a quiet place to record. The last thing you want to happen is extraneous noises interrupting your thoughtful, meaningful feedback by outside noises. Choosing a quiet place to record could save you a fair bit of time.
- Avoid perfection. If you are a perfectionist, you could become quite frustrated with video feedback because you will make slips and mistakes while creating feedback. Keep your first recording unless there are serious errors or you start rambling. Remember, your feedback is a friendly, open, helpful guide for students, not a formalized presentation.
- Take a few notes to guide your conversation. Taking a few point-form notes before recording is quite helpful to focus your feedback and avoid rambling. You can even add these notes to the student’s work. These notes will help reduce the number of retakes you will need to do.
- Do not record when you are stressed. Aside from pacing yourself to reduce stress, try not to provide video feedback when frustrated or stressed. Your tone may not be friendly or helpful. Students have noted that they hear the negative tone in feedback, so try hard to be aware of how you feel when you record.
- Use a conversational, supportive tone. Students respond well to a relaxed, conversational tone. When recording, imagine that you are tutoring a student in person and sitting across the table from them. You want to be careful to guide but not judge. Students will find it hard to receive feedback if there is a judgemental tone.
- Balance and growth mindset. In the general chapter of providing feedback, you will note that you should try to provide balanced feedback, noting positive efforts and opportunities for growth. Regardless of whether you provide positive or negative feedback, always try to focus on helping your students learn and grow. A statement like, “one opportunity for growth here is …” is much better than “what you did wrong was…”. Bottom line—focus on what students can do to improve.
- Short and sweet hits the spot. Long, rambling feedback videos that do not work well for four reasons. First, students lose focus and stop listening to them. Second, the student can be overwhelmed with information and too many suggestions. Third, students cannot locate the points you make in your video when they want to review again—they have to listen to the entire video. Finally, long videos tend to include rambling and a lack of focus – at least mine do. Keep your video feedback videos short—1 to 3 minutes. Focus on one area of feedback per video and make multiple videos.
- Screen share student work. Technically, you could use a tool like Mote to provide audio feedback on essays or written assignments. However, recording the actual assignment (screencast) can provide greater clarity, particularly when referring to multiple sections in an assignment. Recording the screen is essential when an assignment is more visually oriented (e.g., a website, learning tool, coding, mindmap).
- Use highlighting. When recording written work, make sure to record the cursor (easy to forget) and use some form of highlighting, so the students know exactly what you are referring to.
- Talking heads need not apply. Some instructors like to add a talking head while providing feedback because it is more personal. Your talking head could be distracting. And quite frankly, when creating video feedback in the wee hours of the night, you may not want students to see your face. Dressing up to give feedback seems like a lot of work.
Activity 1: Individualized Screencast Feedback
Overview & Description
Individualized screencast feedback is the activity most often used by educators (Bahula & Kay, 2021). This type of feedback can help establish teaching presence (Garrison, 2011) by building a strong connection between you and your students, particularly in blended and online learning environments. One of the key benefits is offering a more detailed, clearer, richer quality of feedback and increased understanding and higher-order thinking skills, leading to a greater cognitive presence in your class (Bahula & Kay, 2021). Finally, video feedback can lead to a more interactive, collaborative assessment (Bahula & Kay, 2021; Quinn et al., 2019).
Using a good headset and screen recording software, the instructor opens up a student assignment and records short videos focussing on key areas of strength or opportunities for growth. We provide General Guidelines for creating these videos above. The bottom line, though, is to imagine yourself tutoring your student while you create the video as if you were having a personal conference about their work.
You also need to develop a system for creating, storing and sharing videos. My system is as follows:
- Open the student’s digital assignment and review, adding short comments on the work to guide my video.
- Open video recording set-up and test the recording first to ensure it is working.
- Plan to create a 1-3 minute video on one point you would like to make.
- Get the link from the video you created and add it as a comment on the assignment.
- Repeat until finished.
- Take at least 5 minutes before you start reviewing the next student’s assignment.
- Set-up time. We cover many of the challenges instructors experience in the general guidelines section above. Perhaps the biggest challenge is the time it will take to set up and learn your video feedback system. Once you have that in place, though, you should find that video feedback is quicker than written feedback, especially when communicating in-depth suggestions that are nuanced.
- Do we need to use video feedback? One other challenge is to determine whether you need to use video feedback. Sometimes, written feedback or rubrics might be a better, more efficient choice, especially with assignments focussed on skills and procedures rather than higher-level thinking. We have found that video feedback is quite effective when guiding writing skills. It can also be quite effective with static multimedia presentations or websites but not videos.
- Screencast-O-Matic: Free (although it does have a paid version), easy to use, and perhaps most importantly, easy to store and share videos.
- Snagit for Education: About $50, but offers some editing options and provides a quick upload to YouTube.
Activity 2: Group Video Feedback
Overview & Description
Group video feedback offers many of the advantages of individualized feedback listed above. It is not as personalized as individual videos for each student, but providing video feedback on an assignment for an entire class might be more time-efficient, especially when there are common patterns of mistakes made. For example, reviewing common errors in a test, formatting, essay structure, or design issues might be more efficient to guide future learning. Providing group or class feedback might soften the blow of errors or mistakes made—students would feel that their peers have similar problems.
The general procedure that we use to provide group feedback is as follows:
- Review all students’ assignments and take notes on key problem areas.
- When reviewing an individual student’s assignment, label the problem areas but do not provide extensive detail, which will be covered in the video.
- Once you have compiled your list of problem areas, use your typed list to create your video. You might use slides or a word document so the students can see examples of what you mean.
- This type of video is typically 10-15 minutes long depending on how many issues there are—try to keep it concise, though, as students lose interest past about 5-6 minutes.
- Ideally, allow students to revise their work and offer the option to re-submit changes made. At first, this might seem very time-consuming, but if you tell students to mark where they made changes clearly, it will be far easier to review. It has been my experience that most students do not re-submit, but the offer of improvement and growth is essential to good feedback practice.
- Increased error analysis time. Offering group feedback reduces video creation time but increases assignment analysis time. In other words, you spend time identifying patterns of strengths and common areas where students are having trouble. This process may be quite beneficial for improving your teaching and noting where more instruction or scaffolding is required.
- Not watching the video. Some students may not watch your group video because it is too long, they did exceptionally well on the assignment, or a number of the common areas do not apply to their submission. You may want to add the talking head to engage students a little more or opportunities to improve their original assignment to increase motivation.
- Need for individual feedback. Students who are struggling may need more personal guidance—a group video may not provide enough specific help.
Activity 3: Peer Video Feedback
Overview & Description
Peer-video feedback provides similar benefits to those listed for individualized feedback. It also offers the added benefits of increased social presence (Garrison, 2011) and engagement among students within the class. This type of feedback also helps create a collaborative class atmosphere where students can develop a sense of community (Quinn et al., 2019). Finally, peer feedback heightens student awareness of learning outcomes and the criteria required to succeed with their assignments. We have found that asking students to provide video peer feedback before submitting their final version of an assignment to the instructor improves the quality of work vastly. Fundamental guidelines that we have used to set up video-based peer feedback include:
- Provide students with a clear list of assessment criteria.
- Provide a few software suggestions for recording feedback and ask students to use proper headsets to record.
- Tell students to review their peer’s assignment using the written checklist, noting problem areas.
- Ask students to create a video clearly explaining their assessment decisions—primarily focussing on the growth opportunities.
- Assign a grade to the peer video assessment so that students take it seriously.
- Give students at least a week to make revisions and submit their final assignments.
- Feedback training. One key challenge for providing peer video reviews is training students to provide good quality feedback. This task is challenging for experienced educators, so do not underestimate the challenge for your students. Provide solid guidelines, detailed checklists, examples and remind students to offer a balanced perspective, focussing on opportunities for growth and improvement.
- Feedback quality. Another challenge of peer video feedback is the time and quality of feedback provided. Students need to take this process seriously. That is why we attach a grade to the actual peer review video. Another challenge is that if a student does not provide a review to their peer (e.g., forgets or chooses not to), the absence of good feedback could influence the quality of the final product.
- Older vs. younger students. Older students in higher education may take the peer review video process more seriously than younger students in secondary school. However, if you truly take time to establish a community of learners, the likelihood of delinquent reviewers is reduced.
- Anonymity of feedback. When feedback is not anonymous, peers can be squeamish about giving more constructive or negative feedback. Consequently, feedback can be excessively positive and general. You can address this by (a) labelling this type of feedback as opportunities for growth, (b) training students to give effective feedback, (c) establishing a class culture of learning and reminding students that they are helping their peers improve and/or (d) making feedback anonymous.
- Back to Feedback Basics Using Video Recordings provides a comprehensive summary of types of video feedback and tips for improving quality.
- The Importance of Constructive Video Feedback in Education is an excellent summary of the various ways in which video feedback can be used in a variety of subject areas.
- Three Ways to Use Video Feedback to Enhance Student Engagement is a solid article walking you through the process of creating video feedback, the benefits and a few examples.
- Why use video feedback in education? (2020): A short article outlining the benefits of video feedback for educators and students.
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