Chapter 5: A Pedagogy of Teaching for Transfer across Media

5.3 Advice from Instructors for Teaching Video Composition

Transfer across Media focuses on student experiences with video and transfer, but I also collected considerable data from and about the instructors of the five first-year writing classes at the heart of this study. Most of the instructor participants were new to teaching video composition, still exploring how best to use it and learning along with their students. In this section, I share a brief snapshot of what these teachers learned about teaching writing with and through video composition.

To start, I asked the instructor participants (along with two additional instructors, Philip and Merideth) what advice they would give to another instructor who might be teaching video composition for the first time. Their answers are instructive for that audience—those new to using video in the writing classroom—but also offer information and reminders to teachers who already use video but might revise or refine their instruction to focus more on transfer or other goals.

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Seven first-year writing instructors offer advice for teaching video composition for the first time.

The song used in this video is by Pitx, Creative Commons license BY.

Descriptive Transcript

[No audio]White text appears on a black screen, reading "Advice For Teaching Video Composition (from instructors who know)".
Katie: Don't be afraid to be nontraditional.Katie is shown sitting in an office, talking to Crystal, who is off screen. In the bottom right corner, text reads "Katie Jostock".
Lauren: Maybe start with a smaller project, you know, if you're teaching it for the first time, maybe don't have it be the final big project. Keep it simple.Lauren is shown in an office, sitting at a table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen. In the bottom right corner, text reads "Lauren Rinke".
Kelly: Keep it simple. But you do need to make time to meet with the students. And then coming, you know, developing and fine-tuning exercises that show the linkage between the two, prose, multimedia, prose and multimedia.Kelly is shown sitting at a table in front of a white board, talking to Crystal, who is off screen. "Kelly Allen" is written on the bottom left of the screen.
Philip: Make sure to make your own video at least once. Holding their progress more accountable, I think. So, more low-stakes writing, but also making sure that they, their low-stakes writing is being reviewed and given feedback on.Phillip is shown sitting at the same table. In the bottom corner, text reads "Phillip Cheng".
Julie: Schedule carefully. I think it takes a lot of time and it's really only worth doing if you give it enough time for them to really play with it and figure it out.Three students are shown in a computer lab classroom, working on desktops to complete their video projects. On the left side of the screen, text reads "voice of Julie".
Angie: Develop your grading criteria, I think, for it. First of all, just develop an idea of what you want to emphasize. What do you want them to be able to do... be able to see, and be able to do about the video. Think about how you connect that with the writing. Whatever you talk about in terms of writing. Whatever you're trying to get them to be able to do with their writing.Angie is shown sitting at a table in front of a white board, talking to Crystal, who is off screen. "Angela Berkley" is written on the bottom left of the screen. She gestures with her hands to emphasize her answer.
Merideth: Whatever you produce, we are all going to watch, because that made a difference. People really, they got ideas about what they could do if they were stuck or if they weren't finished. They, you know, they gave each other feedback. They were a real audience for the piece.Merideth is shown sitting at a table in front of a white board, talking to Crystal, who is off screen. "Merideth Garcia" is written on the bottom left of the screen.
Kelly: Take the plunge, and do it. It's worth it.Kelly is shown again sitting at a table in front of a white board, talking to Crystal, who is off screen. "Kelly Allen" is written on the bottom left of the screen.

Have No Fear

Katie recommends that other instructors not be afraid to be nontraditional in their teaching. While this may seem obvious, almost all the instructors in this study expressed some trepidation or fear because they were teaching a video composition assignment in a writing class, a choice they viewed as nontraditional. For some instructors, video seemed unfamiliar and felt like something outside their area of expertise. Others had never taught video composition before and relied on adapting my advice and lessons and using them to develop their video units. It's useful to know that only one of the instructors in this study had taught a video composition unit in FYW before, but all seven instructors I spoke with found it pedagogically manageable and useful for student learning after it was completed.

Keep It Simple

Lauren advises others to teach video as a smaller project. While some instructors in this study assigned a larger video composition assignment that took at least a few weeks, it is certainly possible to create a small video assignment or use video as one piece of a larger assignment. Lauren herself did this as she required her students to compose one-minute introduction videos as part of their career investigation projects and presentations. Julie used a similar approach, having her students compose their video projects in groups as part of a larger primary research project culminating in a written essay.

Meet with Students

Kelly suggests that instructors teaching video make time to meet with students and develop lessons that show the linkage between prose and video. Meeting with students one-on-one or in groups is a useful strategy to support transfer, as it is possible to provide students with in-the-moment feedback on their work and oral prompting for continued or deeper reflection. Kelly also taught video with the goal of helping students improve their prose writing, so she suggests the development of lessons that help students draw comparisons between these media.

Make a Video

Philip recommends that teachers who assign video projects make their own videos at least once. I find this useful advice that applies anew during each semester. As updates to software are done, functional knowledge about software programs shifts and changes: menus are updated, buttons are eliminated or relocated, and the display can be different. Some programs are discontinued altogether. Many students in this study used Windows Movie Maker to create their video compositions, for example, but as of this writing in 2019, Windows has discontinued this software. Windows users who might have been experts in Movie Maker must now use different software to compose video. Thus Philip's advice is important: the software frequently becomes new and different, and familiarizing yourself with changes and different options through making your own video can help you better support students in their work.

Take the Time Needed

Julie advises other instructors to schedule carefully and allow time for videos. The instructors in this study gave their students several weeks—up to five in some cases—to complete video assignments. As Julie mentions, students need time to play, discover options, make revisions, develop and apply meta-awareness, reflect, and transfer their knowledge.

Assess the Learning Goal(s)

Angie suggests developing grading criteria for the video project in advance, making sure the criteria include elements that require students to connect video with prose writing, if that is a goal of the assignment. Angie and I have written elsewhere about how video composition helped us shift our assessment approaches from summative assessment focused mainly on product to formative assessment focused on other learning goals such as development of meta-awareness about composition (see VanKooten and Berkley). I address assessment in more detail in section 5.2, but my overall point about assessment based on this study lines up with Halbritter's advice and can be summarized this way: assess the learning goal(s) of the assignment, which often does not involve assessing the video as a product.

Share the Work

Finally, Merideth recommends that students be required to share their video compositions with their peers in class, which can help students generate ideas, provide them with feedback, and give them a real audience for their work. Much of the data from the first-year writing study demonstrates how video opens up the concept of audience for students as they envision multiple parties watching and interacting with their videos, not just the instructor of the course.

Take the Plunge

Kelly's final advice is to take the plunge and do it—teach writing with and through video composition! If you're considering incorporating video into a writing course or further developing the use of video, it may take some additional effort and time, but the instructors I interviewed felt that the work was worth it. And of course the findings from the first-year writing study align with this advice: video is a useful way for students to work toward the transfer of writing knowledge across media.