21G.410 | Spring 2017 | Undergraduate
Advanced German: Professional Communication
Instructor Insights

Using Video and Native Speakers to Provide Feedback

In this section, Peter Weise shares how he uses video recordings and feedback from German native speakers to help students reflect on their language skills.

Using Video Recordings as a Feedback Tool

The culminating event in 21G.410 Advanced German: Professional Communication is a conference-like experience, during which students give oral presentations in front of an audience of native German speakers from a variety of business, science, and other professional fields. Leading up to this experience, students give a number of oral presentations in class. Three of these presentations are about 5 minutes in length and are designed to prepare students for their 10-15 minute conference presentations during the final two days of the course. These shorter presentations are preparatory in terms of content, but also in terms of delivery.

I videotape their 5-minute practice presentations so that students can see themselves communicating orally. I want them to see the small communication tics they might have in German (and possibly in English, as well). We talk about articulation and voice projection—all the things we would talk about in an English language course where students would have to give a presentation.

"Many of the communication issues I would point out as an instructor, (students) identify themselves, because they can see the issues on the video tape."
— Peter Weise

We review the video recordings together as a class. It’s a lot of fun because our classroom atmosphere is relaxed. Students aren’t anxious about the experience. I also use it as an opportunity to talk about the cultural differences between how Americans and Germans give feedback. Germans are much more direct with their feedback. I model this for them through this activity, and I encourage students to be direct. We spend a great deal of time putting criticism in context, framing it as helpful feedback that students can actually use to improve their language skills.

The first person to speak during the review process is the presenter. I ask them to comment on what they noticed about their presentation, what they think they did well, and what communication problems arose during the presentation. Many of the communication issues I would point out as an instructor, they identify themselves, because they can see the issues on the video tape. If there are problems they don’t see, I can then point them out. We post the video recordings on our class website so that students can view their video recordings multiple times.

Direct Feedback from Native Speakers

During the conference at the end of the semester, students receive direct feedback from native German speakers. These speakers serve as commentators. They critique students’ work in German directly after students complete their presentations. The feedback is direct and timely. Presenting in front of strangers makes students a little nervous, and I like that. They need to have a little extra pressure to make things come together. That bit of adrenaline spurs students to do their best.

Course Info
As Taught In
Spring 2017
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assignment Written Assignments
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