Young girl wearing headphones

Audio feedback helps students edit work

by Claire Miller

Language arts teachers may not always have enough class time to meet individually with students about their writing and still teach the day’s lesson. Instead, they either conduct quick meetings with students or make edits on students’ papers, pass them back and ask to see revised versions at a later date.

Assistant Professor Debra McKeown recently conducted a study with researchers at Georgia State University and Vanderbilt University to see if giving individual students pre-recorded audio feedback on their writing through an app called Notability helped them revise their work and better understand how to improve their writing.

The study, in press with Education and Treatment of Children, focused specifically on students with emotional and behavioral disorders, who are more likely to make surface-level changes to their work (i.e. spelling and punctuation) rather than addressing more in-depth revisions that can impact overall writing quality, such as organization.

McKeown’s research team gave a special education teacher instructions on recording useful, thoughtful audio feedback on students’ writing, and teaching students to use the audio to revise their work. This method not only helps teachers give individualized attention to students, but also ensures they know what kind of information to include in their feedback and shows students how their teachers’ suggested revisions can help them improve their writing.

“In this case, students who did not previously enjoy writing or believed they couldn’t write changed their attitude toward writing and every student spontaneously indicated liking the intervention and wanted to continue using it,” McKeown writes. “There is power in consistent individual feedback in which students listen and respond at their own pace.”