Assessing High-Stakes Writing Using Screencast Feedback

A screencast is a recording that captures actions on a computer screen and that can be accompanied by your voice. It is a new and innovative way to deliver clear feedback to student writers by allowing them to follow along with you as you comment on their work. Through screencasts evaluation, you will be able to indicate specific revision needs, ways to follow through on revision, talk through how you scored the assignment on your rubric, and more.

When teaching online, it may be challenging to feel a personal connection with your students, and your students may feel the same way. A screencast introduces your voice into your feedback, so rather than a paper with red marks, students get to hear directly from you. They get to hear your encouragement, your inflection points, and your warmth. 

From one instructor who uses screencast software:

I have received an overwhelming amount of unsolicited positive feedback from my students since I started using screencast videos for feedback on process papers. For example, one nontraditional student commented that this was the first time an online instructor had shown her how specific errors in her paper impacted her writing features scores on the rubric. She further explained that she was usually unable to understand what parts of her writing led to lower scores or how to improve those in the future.

Learn@UW recommends this tutorial for support on recording, editing, and sharing screencast feedback through Camtasia, which is licensed by UW–Madison. For more options, check out this resource from Learn@UW.

Benefits to providing screencast feedback

Screencast feedback allows the writer to follow along on-screen, pairing your audio feedback with the recorded video of your screen. This is the closest you can get to being side-by-side with the writer in a conference—you are able to point out on screen the examples you want to highlight for your student and they are able to join you virtually in this process. Screencasting also works with PowerPoints and Google Slides, in addition to Google Docs and Word documents.
Screencast feedback can eliminate or diminish misinterpretations with your feedback by allowing students to hear intonation, inflection, and nuance in your voice. With the goal of helping students develop their writing habits, it is less likely that students will misinterpret your feedback on their writing, meaning that they can more readily apply your comments to their work.

Screencast feedback can be more detailed than written comments. Because we often speak faster than we type, and because screencast feedback allows you to communicate what you’re seeing clearly, more detail won’t necessarily mean more time spent grading.

Screencast feedback can add a personal touch—your voice—in a time when everyone is socially distanced. Never underestimate the impact that personalized audio/video feedback can have on a student. Not only does this provide a human touch in a moment where we’re spending a lot of time looking at screens, but it also allows you to communicate compassion to students who may be feeling isolated.

How to structure feedback using screencast

Before you start recording, make sure you’ve skimmed or read the paper first. Take some time to note points that you want to emphasize. This way, your comments come across as more measured and precise.

Begin with an introductory greeting. Consider thanking the student for sharing his or her paper and express how you felt reading it. Model the sort of respect that you look for from students.

Identify 2 or 3 specific writing-related skills that were well done, and guide the reader to a few of these as examples. For example, you might point to their transition sentences and talk about how that helped you as a reader work your way through the paper. Focus these comments on global concerns, qualities like organization and flow, rather than on local concerns like mechanics.

Identify 2 or 3 specific writing-related skills in the paper that could be improved, and guide the reader to a few of these as examples. Avoid pointing out every error (for your sake and theirs), and instead highlight those skills that most need improvement. For example, you may point out a pattern that the writer has of not contextualizing their quotes, and offer example language they could employ. Again, focus on global concerns like organization and flow.

Move to the assignment rubric to indicate how you scored them. If this is a rough draft, indicate how this assignment would score and identify how they can better meet the criteria.

*Note*: Be mindful when discussing a student’s grade. You should have the rubric marked and the assignment graded beforehand. Make sure that you are using a complete rubric that you can refer to rather than determining the grade on the spot. See our resource on using rubrics here.

Direct the student to additional sources, resources, or websites that could benefit the student as they work toward a next draft or toward the next assignment.

Offer closing thoughts, again thanking the student for sharing their writing.

For alternative ways to provide and/or structure your feedback, see our primer on using audio feedback to respond to student writing.

For more information on screencasting, check out this resource from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.