August 5, 2015 by gemmalunn
If you have read previous posts on this blog you’ll know that I’m a fan of keeping a reflective journal for myself. Also, in the past I’ve encouraged students to keep learning journals and I found these very useful and a good insight into how students are feeling. At the beginning of my current course a colleague suggested doing video diaries rather than written journals for our speaking and listening groups. This makes sense as students already have an incredibly large amount of writing to do plus this doesn’t help improve their speaking or listening. So, I decided it would be fun to give them a try.
I asked students to do their first video diary as a reflection on their first group mini presentation at the end of week 1. I gave them some ideas of points they could reflect on such as – how they felt the presentation went and how they felt about getting peer feedback, also what areas they think they need to work on. Students didn’t seem overly keen on the idea at first but when we discussed reasons behind it they were less reluctant, I also suggested that it was only fair that I reply by video. The course that students are taking – a 10 week pre-sessional course is extremely intense and allows very little time for reflection so this part of the learning cycle is often skipped. Hopefully by going through this process and making the video it at least gives students some space for reflection.
The second video diaries were after students’ first seminar discussions so they reflected on how they felt during the discussion, how much they contributed, any difficulties and what they want to improve on etc. It was interesting to find that 13/15 students said they all felt frustrated as they sometimes couldn’t find the words to explain their ideas or prepare their ideas quickly enough, this is not something I had noticed while observing the discussion. I fed this back to students and encouraged them next time to ask their classmates for help in working out the word or situation. I also reminded them that as everyone is in the same boat they are more likely be patient with each other and should therefore feel less pressured. As for my role I realised that before the next seminar discussion I should give students a bit more time to prepare their ideas and note down / look up any key words they might need. Rather than assume that because the topic is familiar (and not yet too academic) it would be easy for them to discuss. It would have probably been much harder to get students to admit to this difficulty in front of the whole class so I strongly feel the video gave them a more comfortable space to do this.
My video replies consist of a mixture of my notes taken during the activity and my response to students’ diaries. As I never have tutorials with these students these videos give me the opportunity to give one-to-one feedback that there is not always time for in class. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this kind of feedback is actually very quick to give and a nice break from writing/typing! Both my own and the students videos are normally around 1 minute long. I always send the first take, for time’s sake and also because it gives students some practice of listening to natural (non-rehearsed) speech. In terms of giving feedback on features of spoken English a video is much more suited to this as you can model correct pronunciation or word stress etc.
Students’ feedback on the video diaries has been very positive. I only request the videos after specific tasks such as presentations or discussions so they have a specific activity to focus on. This type of feedback feels much more personal than written feedback and thus helps build a better rapport with students and I believe that this in turn enables them to open up a bit more than they might do in a written diary. Finally, students probably also enjoy having a look at my kitchen!