In recent years, providing student feedback has become increasingly burdensome, to the point where it is now one of the biggest contributors to teacher workloads (Elliott et al., 2016). This considered, I want to ensure that the feedback I am giving is of good quality and that my students engage with it. I hypothesised that multimedia technology may help with this aim, and so conducted a case study to answer the following research questions:
- How do secondary school students respond to feedback given in video form?
- How do secondary school students say they use feedback in video form and how does this differ from the way in which they say they use conventional written feedback?
Students completed a questionnaire adapted from Macgregor et al. (Macgregor et al., 2011). I also conducted two semi-structured group interviews. After familiarising myself with the data, I analysed the interviews by coding my interview data manually and then identifying broad themes. I designed my research following the BERA Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research and obtained informed consent.
The scheme of work at my school is designed so that each term, elements from all four of the ‘traditional’ strands of the mathematics curriculum are covered, including number, algebra, geometry, and statistics. After studying the required elements for each strand, students complete an ‘end of topic’ homework, which consists of a range of questions on each of the elements. I designed a format for giving feedback on these end-of-topic homeworks:
- Students receive their marked homework. The marking consists of an indication of questions that are incorrect but with minimal written feedback.
- A task number identifying the area in greatest need of development is written on each student’s homework. This number corresponds to a video and a review task.
- In a computer room during normal lesson time, students watch the assigned video, which is an explanation of questions that were incorrectly answered.
- Students attempt the review task, which is similar to the question answered incorrectly, and offers an opportunity for the student to immediately make use of the video feedback.
- Answers for the review tasks are shared with students, and students mark the review task they attempted.
An important overall finding was the general feeling of satisfaction students expressed about receiving feedback in this form. A significant majority (85 per cent) agreed that they were satisfied with the feedback they received on their homework, and 77 per cent of the respondents expressed a preference for feedback in video form rather than that previously received from teachers.
One possible explanation for this is that students felt the feedback was personalised. In the questionnaire, 46 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the feedback was personal and relevant to them, with the same number neither agreeing nor disagreeing. This may initially suggest somewhat mixed views regarding the personalisation of the feedback. However, personalisation was a theme that emerged strongly during the interviews. One interviewee commented (and the others agreed) that ‘normally in class, the teacher talks to everyone and… sometimes they talk about something which is not actually what you got wrong, actually listening to the video and seeing what they do’ (a second interviewee cuts in) ‘felt a lot more personal’. This shows that this student recognises a teacher talking through a problem that several students got wrong as them giving feedback. It also suggests that the students in this interview realised that they needed to work on the area that I had assigned to them and recognised that it was personal to them. This view was supported later in the interview, where one student commented that it was ‘tailored to what we needed to do’ and that ‘we had the opportunity to practise the stuff we didn’t know, which made it a lot more of a personal experience’.
The majority of students (62 per cent) watched the video all the way through before attempting the review task, whilst the remaining students watched the video until they realised their mistake and then attempted the task. No student reported using the feedback in a different way. The interview, however, captured a much more nuanced view of the way in which they used the feedback. The most significant finding was the fact that students said that they replayed the feedback they received. The theme of replaying occurred seven times across the interviews. One student said, ‘I watched the video through, but I watched it more because obviously the more you watch it the easier is to understand.’ A second student reiterated this, saying that ‘they’d [the teacher] get annoyed if you asked them to repeat it ten times but if we just kept pressing repeat, it just meant that we could keep going over [it]’. This illustrates a significant advantage of feedback in video form – students perhaps do not feel comfortable asking for repeated clarification from a teacher. By giving them a video, they have control over the way in which they use the feedback, watching it multiple times if necessary. This was not wholly surprising, as it echoed the findings from studies in higher education contexts (Hennessy and Forrester , 2014); (Macgregor et al., 2011); (Merry and Orsmond , 2008), but is a behaviour that, as far as I am aware, has not previously been reported in a secondary school context.
A similar theme, though one less commonly reported by students, was the concept of pausing the video. One student in the first interview stated that ‘I did like another thing ’cause there were like different sections – I watched that section and then [did] that section’. In making use of the pause function, this student had access to the detail she would have had from a face-to-face conversation, but with the exception that she had control over the timing of the delivery of the information. Merry and Orsmond (2008) found that students in higher education using audio feedback were more likely to pause the recording process, allowing them to process information. This motivation for pausing was similar to that expressed by students in my study: three students in the interviews expressed working at their own pace as an advantage of feedback in video form.
One student gave the example ‘if the teacher wants to move on and you’re like “wait I’m not done yet” and I just think it was a lot easier to have that time by ourselves to do what we needed to do’. This suggests that secondary school students, like students in higher education, could be taking advantage of the medium in which the feedback is given, in order to process the information at their own pace. This reflects findings by Ostrow and Heffernan (Ostrow and Heffernan , 2014), where secondary school students who received either textual feedback or video feedback, assigned by a computer program, were found to spend on average six times as long looking at feedback in video form compared with textual feedback. Whilst this is no guarantee that the feedback in video form is more effective than written feedback, it supports my findings that students are more likely to respond and work well where they have a level of control and autonomy.
It may be possible for teachers in most subjects to use feedback in video form effectively, although further research is needed to determine the impact that feedback in this form might have on student achievement. The students I interviewed appreciated the personalised nature of the feedback and were better able to work at their own pace by pausing and rewinding the videos. The making of videos need not be a barrier to giving feedback in video form, either; there is a wealth of videos available online that could provide an alternative to making them. Assigning these videos and related questions to students could make feedback not only faster for teachers, but also more targeted to students’ needs.