--Using Videos to Actively Engage Students in their Development of Deep Learning Strategies
Delving Deeper--Using Videos to Actively Engage Students in their Development of Deep Learning StrategiesIda M. Jones Learning is a process of discovery that generates new understanding about ourselves and the world around us…[It] provides a sense of discovery…We associate learning with the deeper processes of influence upon our understanding [italics in original]. …Such understanding grows from processes of reflection that reveal the connection between things which had previously been unrecognized or opaque to us….To learn how to explain things or events is to be able to grasp the principles which underly [sic] and make sense of their working and thus enable us to recognize their occurrence on some future occasion even though the surface characteristics may appear to be different.IntroductionIn the introductory business law course the goal of covering relevant coursecontent is frequently in conjunction with efforts to develop critical thinking andanalysis skills. The most common method to cover course content is to deliverthe material in a lecture format and to assess mastery through tests. Althoughtesting is one way to ask learners to demonstrate mastery of content anddevelopment of critical thinking skills, educational research confirms thatexamination alone tends to encourage use of surface learning strategies. Surfacelearning strategies, such as memorization and objective-questions test-takingskills do not promote deeper learning evidence by self reflection and constructingnew knowledge based on what was learned. Active learning strategies, asrepresented in this article by the use of short videos, directed questioning andgroup collaboration, can promote deep learning. In this manuscript the author willdiscuss theories of learning, effective deep learning strategies and how thistechnique can help improve learning.Two Learning Strategies: Deep and Surface LearningHow does one measure learning? That topic has been the subject of a great dealof research to determine what actions provide evidence of learning. Toparaphrase Ranson, quoted at the beginning of this manuscript, learning is aprocess of developing an understanding and explanation of life events andactivities generated in part through reflection on the similarities and differencesamong things encountered. Those strategies have been characterized, basedinitially on Marton and Saljo’s 1976 study of learning strategies, into two maintypes: surface learning and deep learning. Marton and Saljo’s study examinedhow students’ learning strategies differed depending on the type of written teststhe students faced. Surface learning occurs when learners spend timememorizing information in order to do well on a test or to otherwise temporarilyuse the information until it is no longer needed for the immediate purpose. Thesurface learning approach is thus characterized by efforts to learn just enough to
pass an exam or other immediate assessment, but does not reflect efforts todevelop a deeper understanding of the knowledge and its relationship to whatwas learned before. Factors included in surface learning include: • Tendency to choose the quickest way to accomplish the task • [A}cquir[ing] the learning material without asking in-depth questions • [S]tudy[ing] the material in a linear manner • [Relate to minimal aspects of material or to a problem without showing interest or need to understand in its entirety • [L]earn[ing] by rote by relying on memory and not on comprehension, and • [C]oncerned with the time needed to fulfill the learning task.Learners who use surface learning strategies do not employ metacognitive skills,in other words, those learners make little to no effort to engage in self-reflection,analyze their own learning or to “think about thinking.” Learners who use surfacelearning strategies attempt to balance the need to do the minimum work to avoidfailure with a desire to exert the minimum effort possible.Learners who adopt deep learning strategies represent the opposite end of thelearning strategies spectrum. Learners who adopt deep learning strategiesattempt to manage new information by approaching it to develop a morecomplete understanding of the information, to determine how that newinformation can be applied and assessing how the information relates topreviously acquired knowledge. Deep learning strategies involve: • “[The] ability to relate new information to previously acquired knowledge • Study[ing] different aspects of the material in order to obtain the entire picture • Search[ing] for a relevant meaning and a connecting point between the learning material and daily life and personal experiences • [T]endency to use meta-cognitive skills • Develop[ing] learning materials that create a basis for new ideas • Offer[ing] other solutions from an inquisitive-critical perspective and […] • Search[ing] and discover[ing] their ‘inner self.’”Deep learning…”is based on the student’s personal commitment to the learningprocess…[and evidences] intrinsic motivation [to acquire complete knowledgeand get satisfaction from the knowledge].”Note that some of the education research supports the idea that if a student isinterested in the material or information, the student is more likely to adopt adeep approach. Age and experience play a role when learners adopt a specific
learning strategy--older and more experienced students tend to adopt deeplearning strategies.Learning environment plays a role in determining which learning strategiesstudents adopt. This means that most students adopt the approach that theybelieve the teacher wants as demonstrated by the instructor’s positive evaluationof that learners’ course performance. If the environment emphasizes grades ontests, higher achieving students tend to adopt the surface learning approach. It isthe quantity, not quality that determines how performance will be evaluated.Learners who adopt deep learning strategies make a significant investment inlearning the material and making it part of the learner’s life through application.Surface learning involves memorizing the minimum possible in order to get by. Acomputer analogy would be that deep learning involves incorporating informationinto long-term memory and surface learning involves placing the information intorandom access memory to be erased as soon as the computer is shut down.Most educators seek to encourage deep learning where the learner incorporatesthe new information in a way that the learner can apply it to different situationsand apply it to unfamiliar contexts. To foster deep learning, the instructor mustadopt practices that encourage students develop a learning strategy that involvesmore than memorization and studying merely for the test, but that insteadencourages students to begin reflection and analysis of information to create anew, broader, deeper comprehension.Promoting Active Learning to Engage StudentsIn their seminal summary of best practices in undergraduate education, ArthurChickering, an award-winning educational researcher on student affairs andstudent learning who works at George Mason University and Zelda Gamson, mostrecently of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education, outlined keyprinciples to promote learning. The Seven Principles include encouraging activelearning. Active learning principles promote the idea that the best learning occurswhen students are engaged in the material and information. Publication and widediseemination of the Seven Principles led to additional research on activelearning which was summarized in a meta-analysis by Charles Bonwell, thendirector of the Center for Teaching and Learning and a history professor atSoutheast Missouri University and James Eison, then founding director of theCenter for Teaching Enhancement at the University of South Florida. This meta-analysis of quantitative studies focused on active learning strategies ascontrasted to other diverse teaching strategies, including case studies,demonstrations and other methods, group collaboration, among other teachingstrategies. In their report, which began with a review of educators’ definitions ofactive learning, Bonwell and Eisen defined active learning as “anything that‘involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing.’”Bonwell and Eison analyzed active learning techniques and identified severalcharacteristics of active learning:1) The learner does more than listening and is engaged in the activity2) The learner practices and/or acquires skills
3) The learner is involved in analysis/higher order thinking skills4) The learner explores his or her own attitudes and values.As part of the meta-analysis, Bonwell and Eison determined that in some ways,active learning is “comparable to lecture in promoting mastery but that it wassuperior to lectures in promoting development of students skills in reading andwriting.” Instructors who use active learning require that “students…do morethan just listen: They must read, write, discuss, or be engaged in solvingproblems. This is partly because even the most motivated students tend to loseattention after 10-15 minutes of listening to a lecture. Most importantly, to beactively involved, students must engage in such higher-order thinking tasks asanalysis, synthesis, and evaluation.” Active learning techniques tend to appeal tostudents of many different learning preferences and achievement levels.Although students in classes range in ages and abilities, active learning activitiesbased on video exercises are especially appropriate for students who attendcollege immediately after high school graduation. These students who aresometimes called "digital natives," reached adulthood watching television, musicvideos, reality television shows and playing video games. Many communicatewith their friends using social media, text messaging on phones and instantmessaging systems and some argue that these students have shorter attentionspans because of multi-tasking. Visual based instruction can appeal to this groupof students and is an alternative instructional technique. Presenting many bits ofinformation in different formats can therefore aid student learning.Many faculty argue that all learning is inherently active and that thus activelearning is involved whether the learner is listening to a formal presentation in aclassroom or is engaged in other education activities such as case studies,cooperative learning, debates and similar activities. The argument is consistentwith the experience of many members of the academy. Most learned, eventhrived, in an environment where learning occurred through independent readingand studying coupled with listening to and participating in well organized lectures.Many faculty members presume that because that is the method through whicheach of those faculty members learned that all students should be successful inlearning through that method. In addition, many instructors prefer lecturingbecause that method of teaching permits the faculty to retain a measure ofcontrol over the learning environment and the materials presented. Lecturing isalso a relatively straightforward method of presenting information. Althougheffective lecturing requires that the instructor keep current in the field, lecturingdoes not require additional study about pedagogy and how people learn. Theweight of the research supports that active learning techniques are part of bestpractices to encourage learning because they engage students in manipulatingknowledge and thereby helping them to develop deeper learning strategies.
Active QuestioningInstructors can engage student in active learning activities through developingsolid questioning techniques that do more than merely ask for memorizedinformation. Dialogue actively engages students in reading, questioning,considering issues from multiple perspectives and developing an internalconversation about what was learned. “Dialogue offers the potential to approachideal modes of discourse…to enhance effective thinking about [organizational]life…”to enable ‘problem-finding’ and guarding against complacency or misplacecertainty.” Just as Socrates used the inconsistency between the sophists’ moralvalues and the conduct necessary to succeed in politics, instructors can usedialogue to engage students in critically evaluating their own positions by raisingquestions about the basis of their perspectives. Dialogue and questioning becomeuseful because it permits students to consider the inconsistencies between whatthey have learned, especially in a business school context, about the “right” ortraditional answer and what might be more consistent with their conduct withfamily, friends and others with whom they have relationships. Morell speaks ofthat inconsistency and also of the dichotomy created with the “modular” approachto teaching ethics. That modular approach presents ethics as a (potentiallyirrelevant) subset of business subjects. Yet business ethics permeates manyaspects of decision-making. Directed questioning is a useful way to developquestions that encourage students to engage in deep rather than surface learningstrategies.Morrell makes his argument in support of using the Socratic technique to teachbusiness ethics. Morell’s analysis of the Socratic method’s effectiveness is equallyapplicable to teaching business law. Business law instructors seek to teach thestudents based on some black letter law, but primarily to create a clearerunderstanding of the policies and critical thinking skills that can guide one tomore thoughtful, considered business decisions. Judicious use of videos, coupledwith carefully designed questions can assist students develop effective use ofdeep learning strategies.Using Videos as an Active Learning Technique to Encourage Developmentof Deep Learning Strategies The manuscript author employs an instructional strategy that involvesusing relatively short videos (10-20 minutes in length) to encourage learners touse deep learning strategies to master information. The exercise required thatstudents review certain course readings, review the video-related questionsdistributed by the instructor, watch the video, reflect on and write shortresponses to the questions, discuss the responses with one other student andengage in a class discussion of the video. Students discussed instructor-developed questions by first reviewing the questions, watching the video, writingout short answers and taking notes and individual reflection and discussing theiranswers with a partner with the ultimate goal of reaching agreement onresponses to all of the questions. Note that most of the students in that class are
sophomores. Many of the students began attending the University immediatelyafter high school graduation. These students are comfortable with multimediamaterials and using the Internet. The videos were selected to assist studentsdevelop and use deep learning strategies. The most engaging, memorable,videos were those that told a story.The manuscript author started working on the exercise by developing questionsbased on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. The questions ranged from simplequestions about the scenario that merely required listening and watching (e.g.,what happened) to questions that required application of higher order thinkingskills (e.g., compare and contrast). These questions were distributed as part of ahandout that students used to take notes and complete the remainder of theexercise. The following is an example of the questions distributed to students:1) Describe what happened. (comprehension)2) Describe the role of the judge in this case. (comprehension)3) Compare the role of the judge in a small claims court to the role of a judge in a civil case. (analysis)4) What were the terms of the contract between the business and the riders? What is the effect when the contract was not in writing? (knowledge, comprehension)5) What should the business have done differently? What is the most effective solution for this business to avoid these types of problems in the future? (evaluation)There are a number of sources that can be used to provide assistance to writequestions in accordance with Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. After developing thequestions, the questions were distributed to students prior to actually showing thevideo. Students quickly read through the questions to prepare for watching thevideo.After students silently reviewed the questions for a few minutes, the manuscriptauthor showed the video. As an example, one 20-minute video used by thisauthor featured Judge Judy. Judge Judy is a television show in which Judge JudithScheindlin, a former family court judge, agrees to hear and decide disputes as anarbitrator. The specific scenario in the video currently discussed illustrated a keyconcept emphasized in the course. That concept was that “if you go to court,you’ve already lost.” That theme has been used to discuss the benefits ofbusinesses accepting social responsibilities and engaging in self-regulationinstead of waiting for societal regulation and judicial decisions. Throughout thesemester, then, the author used examples to illustrate the vagaries of the courtsystem and the inadequacies of the regulatory system as a means of regulatingbusiness conduct.In the referenced video the students watch a case involving a limousine companythat had been sued by teenagers/young adults who received inadequate service.The case presented is an interesting breach of contract scenario. It also servesas an illustration of the difference in the role of the judge in a small claims orarbitration case compared to the role of the judge in a trial court. Students were
enthusiastic about and remembered the video and the message.After watching the video, students were asked to think about the video and tobriefly note their responses to the questions listed in the handout. The purpose ofthis initial step was to encourage students to develop their use of deep learningstrategies to analyze the case by applying concepts they had previously read.Students were given approximately 5-10 minutes to respond to the questions.The length of time permitted was dependent on the number and types ofquestions.After the initial reflection, students were asked to discuss their responses. Toencourage everyone to discuss the material, the manuscript author used thecollaboration technique known as Think Pair Share as a way to encouragereflection and discussion based on that reflection. Think pair Share is one way toassist learners hone their critical thinking skills through the analysis that occursthrough active learning and collaboration. In think-pair-share students firstanswer questions on their own by thinking about them and writing down theiranswers. Then, the students explain their answers to one other student. Afterstudents had engaged in this reflection and writing their answers, each studentwas asked to review his or her answers with on other student. After the studentshad taken turns explaining, they then worked together to develop the pair’sresponse to the questions. Students were encouraged to amend their answersbased on the discussion with the other student.In-class discussion of the scenario was the final step after the students watchedthe video, reflected on and wrote answers to the question and discussed with asmall group. The full class discussion generally focused on the questions thatrequired application of higher order thinking skills. The manuscript author’sexperience is that after using this method, the full class discussion was muchricher and more analytical. The combination of individual writing with discussionin small groups resulted in more contributions from a wider range of students.Students who did not usually speak up raised their hands to respond to thequestions. The rehearsal by discussion in small groups increased nearly everystudent’s willingness to contribute to the class discussion.Conclusion and RecommendationsEncouraging students to employ deep learning strategies is important to helpstudents develop critical thinking skills. The method used by this author is oneway to actively engage students in critical thinking activities. There can bechallenges. Sometimes students do not willingly participate in discussions withingroups. The advantage of think-pair-share was that in a one-on-one situation,most students make an effort to participate. As the instructor, the manuscriptauthor also walked through the room to check whether students wereparticipating in a discussion and to also answer questions. Another challenge wasthat some might not seriously reflect on the questions and responses. Themanuscript author addressed that by requiring that students turn in the answersto count as part of their class participation. The responses were quickly reviewedto determine that the students provided some answers and were graded as pass/fail. Another issue is that these methods take time and thus do not allow
coverage of the material. As noted in the Bonwell & Eisen meta-analysis, materialcoverage by the instructor through lecturing does not necessarily result inlearners listening fully to lectures, even if they are motivated. If an instructorused this instructional strategy several times during a semester, selecteddifferent types of short videos and reviewed the reflections, more students couldbecome actively engaged in the post-video discussions. Overall, this has been aneffective instructional technique.