Lend me your ears: The subtle qualities of voice in learning

By Clare Gormley

Seldom a day seems to go by without some mention of the word ‘voice’ in academic discussion. Educators and policymakers frequently refer to the importance of representing ‘the student voice’ in teaching and learning activities. Similarly, the concept of ‘the academic voice’ is often used in conversations around the values, opinions, and perspectives of the university community.  However in this post I would like to take some time to talk about the real-life, living-and-breathing human voice itself in relation to teaching, learning, and assessment. Given the evidence of feedback as a powerful learning tool (Hattie & Timperley, 2007), I would like to reflect on the perhaps underestimated contribution of a person’s actual voice in developing and enhancing knowledge.


Andrew Middleton, well known for his research and staff development work around the development and use of audio-based feedback in higher education, was guest speaker at the recent DCU Teaching and Learning Day. He described audio feedback as “the recording and distribution of spoken feedback on a student’s work” and gave a wide-ranging, stimulating presentation on why, how, and when feedback in audio format might fit into an assessment strategy. We heard how audio feedback can take many forms, ranging from personal to general, and it is ideally suited to constructive criticism on aspects such as evidence, structure and academic argument. You can watch the video of his presentation here: Andrew Middleton at DCU T&L Day

One of the slides that I felt most vividly captured the potential of the audio medium is shown below – it illustrates some reactions from students who received audio feedback from lecturers and it captures many of the key benefits described in the literature.

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Clearly the timeliness, replayability, and mobility of the approach appeals to students. But it is that intangible quality of being prompted to “listen more when someone is talking to me than if I’m reading it” that is particularly intriguing.

You can read Clare’s full reflection piece on the value of voice in learning, based on several talks and experiences at DCU’s recent Teaching and Learning Day, on her personal blog – Learning Rush.

Highly Successful Y1 Feedback Symposium

A highly successful Feedback Symposium was held at Maynooth University as the final deliverable of the Y1 Feedback project. The Symposium gave an opportunity for around 150 participants from across Irish higher education institutions to explore, discuss, and share approaches to enhancing feedback in first year. Each participant as part of their registration received a free copy of the literature review on contemporary feedback approaches published by the project team.


The programme included keynote presentations from a number of international experts on assessment and feedback, including Professor David Carless (video introduction), Professor Tansy Jessop, Professor David Nicol, and Dr. Naomi Winstone, author of a recently published Feedback Toolkit.

As part of the programme, and at the centre of the day,  the Symposium also helped to showcase the range of technology-enabled feedback case studies developed by the Y1 Feedback project. Y1 Feedback case study participants collaborated across Maynooth University, Athlone IT, Dundalk IT, and Dublin City University. Several NIDL staff contributed presentations at the Symposium and case studies on topics ranging from learning analytics (Dr Mark Glynn), the use of Peer Wise (Dr Eamon Costello) and the adoption of programme-wide assessment and feedback strategy (led by Dr James Brunton.

The Y1 Feedback project team, led by Lisa O’Regan, and including Orna Farrell and Professor Mark Brown from the NIDL, is shown in the photo below. Congratulations to everyone involved in what was a very productive and rewarding professional collaboration.