Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

Audiotaped Feedback in Business Writing: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

Audiotaped Feedback in Business Writing: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

This four-year exploratory study was designed to investigate whether augmenting written comments on students' business writing assignments with audiotaped remarks would lead to improved feedback, context, and performance; save time; and motivate student writers. The results showed that all factors improved except time, which could not be compared directly to the results of previous studies.

As in other disciplines (Higgins, 1972), we business writing instructors always seem to be looking for better ways to give our students enough feedback. Our brief remarks jotted on their writing assignments too often appear inadequate. Either we haven't said enough, or they have to ask what our cryptic remarks actually mean (Butler, 1980; Robertson, 1986).

What if we were to record our comments on audiotape instead of -- or in addition to -- writing them down? Would we be able to give them more and better feedback, perhaps in less time? Would the context in which we make those remarks be more understandable? Would students be more motivated by taped messages than by written remarks alone? And would students make better grades after getting taped feedback? As we believed the answers to these questions were "yes," several years ago we began an audiotape feedback program in our undergraduate business writing classes. Overall, it proved to be quite successful.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the extended exploratory study we conducted with audiotaped feedback, explain the procedure we used, report the results, and make suggestions for further study.

Audiotaped Feedback Literature

Since the 1970s, a considerable body of theoretical, empirical, and applied research on methods of using audiotapes to teach and learn has been reported regularly in the literature. Researchers have met with varying degrees of success using sundry methods in a variety of disciplines (see, for example, Aron, 1992; Barrows, 1971; Davies, Gale, & Clarke, 1977; Deurksen, 1972; Hunt, 1989; Kahrs, 1974; Miller, 1973; Sommers, 1989; and Sudzina, 1993). A number of these publications have dealt specifically with audiotaped feedback on writing assignments.

As early as 1972, Coleman reported that ninth-grade composition students regarded composition writing more favorably after receiving audiotaped feedback. In 1975, Hurst reported that using cassettes to provide feedback to students improved the quality of their report writing. Similarly, Logan, Logan, Fuller, and Denehy (1976) found the quality of written dental exams improved when taped feedback was given. In addition, their undergraduate students found taped feedback more personal, informative, complete, and obtainable.

Moore (1977a, 1977b) followed with a controlled study comparing written to taped feedback of college undergraduates' reports. The results showed that students liked taped feedback significantly better. Differences between grades and times were insignificant.

Carson and McTasney (1978) reported their undergraduate students said taped feedback was more complete, intelligible, and personal and that they appreciated being able to read passages in essays while listening to comments on tape.

In 1981, Clark reported on his experiences grading business and technical reports written by college undergraduates. He found audiotapes offered the advantages of speed and inflection and that he could better explain major structural problems on tape than in writing. He also was able to suggest more fully how to improve a report's content and had time to correct spelling errors and explain style principles and grammar and punctuation rules. As with Moore (1977a, 1977b), Clark's (1981) students preferred taped feedback. Among the problems he encountered were the time required for learning how to tape his remarks effectively and the necessity of marking stylistic, grammatical, and spelling errors by hand on the written reports. …

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