Assessment of language learning naturally presents some unique challenges for both teaching staff and learners. Regular practice of both spoken and written language production is a vital part of language training and requires a significant amount of ongoing feedback to support the acquisition of competence in the subject. In a distance learning context in particular, but similarly in any setting where feedback is provided asynchronously rather than face-to-face, providing meaningful feedback on spoken texts especially is challenging, often requiring spoken feedback to correct pronunciation and structuring errors.
There have been a number of exciting projects around audio feedback in recent years, including the Optimising Audio Feedback project at Aberystwyth University, Sounds Good at Leeds (both funded by JISC) and Audio Supported Enhanced Learning, a collaboration between the Universities of Bradford and Hertfordshire. The focus of the eFeedback Evaluation Project (eFEP), however, is the impact of the combination of both spoken and written feedback on language learning.
The eFEP project is led by the Department of Languages at The Open University, an institution with unique experience in providing language training through distance learning, a large part of which involves teaching through both formative and summative assessment and feedback. The OU has a mature and robust eTMA (electronic tutor marked assignment) system which supports assessment across the institution, and provides feedback either via MP3 files or marked-up MS Word documents, as appropriate for the individual assignment. Each form of feedback is supplemented with an HTML form (an example of which can be seen on the poster submitted by the project to the programme’s startup meeting) containing administrative information, marks awarded and additional feedback.
The project will examine the ways in which students and tutors interact and engage with their feedback, identify common perceptions and issues, and recommend areas requiring further support and guidelines for good practice. In order to examine the applicability of this feedback approach in traditional settings, the project will also look at the impact of audio feedback in Italian modules at the University of Manchester.
The insight into the use of audio feedback across a variety of environments, and the range of training and support materials to be produced, should make eFEP a valuable addition to our understanding of the value of audio feedback as well as offering clear practical guidance to those considering adopting it.