Practitioner Research in Higher Education, Vol 8, No 1 (2014)

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Audio feedback: richer language but no measurable impact on student performance

Charlotte Chalmers, Janis MacCallum, Elaine Mowat, Norma Fulton


Audio feedback has been shown to be popular and well received by students. However, there is little published work to indicate how effective audio feedback is in improving student performance.

Sixty students from a first year science degree agreed to take part in the study; thirty were randomly assigned to receive written feedback on coursework, thirty students received their feedback via audio files. Mean marks awarded for the coursework for each group were not significantly different. The end of module test included questions that specifically assessed topics from the coursework. Overall test results were not significantly different for the two groups, nor were marks for the coursework-specific questions.


Samples of the tutor feedback were analysed and the language categorised. The mean word counts for audio feedback were significantly higher than word counts for written feedback. Analysis of the language used in feedback (measured by word count) indicated significantly higher word counts for audio feedback in the following categories, ‘explaining misunderstandings’ and ‘demonstration of good practice’. Since word counts for audio feedback might be expected to include a number of ‘filler’ words, the number of comments made under different categories was also compared for audio and written feedback. Significantly more comments were made using audio feedback in the categories ‘giving praise’, ‘explaining misunderstandings’, ‘demonstration of good practice’ and ‘justifying marks’.  Under the heading ‘suggesting approaches to future work’ more comments were made using written feedback than audio, although the mean number of comments in both forms of feedback in this category was very low. Whilst marks may not be improved for those students receiving audio rather than written feedback, the feedback given is much richer.


Audio feedback; student performance; language of feedback.

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ISSN 1755-1382