Usable KnowledgeHelen Story

Verbal feedback using technology can decrease teacher workload and give pupils a more personalised feedback experience, according to a new report.

Research undertaken by academics at Yr Athrofa found the versatility of verbal feedback using technology to be a particular strength, as it could be related to a pupils’ age and stage of development or a specific subject area.

The study explored the use of technology to support formative assessment strategies at Ysgol Bae Baglan, a 3-16 school in Neath Port Talbot.

It saw pupils from Year 5 to 10 uploading their work to ‘OneNote’, with teachers responding online with personalised feedback using a program called ‘Office Mix’.

The school wanted to explore the impact of verbal feedback on teacher workload and learners’ engagement with their own learning.

The benefits of using technology to provide this feedback would also be explored.

The report, written by Yr Athrofa’s Dr Helen Lewis, Sian Brooks and Diane Thomas in conjuction with the ERW consortium, said: “At the start of the study, only 34% of pupils asked said that they felt comfortable having ICT-assisted feedback.

“They were unsure about how to access, understand and revisit feedback in this format. Verbal feedback, as opposed to written comments was new to them, and as such they felt unsure as to its value.”

But by the end of the study, 70% of pupils of all ages reported that verbal feedback was something that they felt happy to receive.

“They were happy that the feedback gave them clear messages of what they needed to address,” said the report.

“They also felt that the verbal feedback was personal to them, and felt that this personalisation came through more in verbal compared to written feedback.”

Teachers also responded positively, reporting that their workload had become more manageable and their own ICT skills had improved as a result of the study.

One teacher said: “Pupils make better sense of verbal feedback because I can explain the point and emphasise aspects more clearly than through a written comment. I can show them exactly what I mean, and that is powerful.”

According to the report, one of the main challenges to the project was that accessing feedback was reliant on pupils being online – with some unable to access the internet outside of school.

It concluded: “In Ysgol Bae Baglan, moving from detailed written comments to verbal feedback using technology decreased teacher workload and helped pupils feel that feedback was personal to their individual needs.

“A strength of the approach was the flexibility it brought for teachers and pupils alike. The digital feedback could be adapted to the different requirements that teachers throughout the school had – whether these related to the pupils’ age and stage of development or because of the subjects they were teaching.

“Different teachers used the feedback approach in different ways. However, all felt positive about the process.”

The report recommended that verbal feedback opportunities should be incorporated into the repertoire of feedback processes and that teachers should consider whether feedback on longer pieces of work should be done via other means.

Similar studies were undertaken at Morriston Comprehensive and Cwmrhydyceirw Primary, in Swansea.

Overall, 80% of pupils at Cwmrhydyceirw preferred the chance to talk about their work with their teacher, as opposed to reading a comment.

Meanwhile, pupils at Morriston reported having a clearer idea of how they could make changes to their work and improve it after using attainment ladders.

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