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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Learning from Instructional Video: Theoretical and Empirical Explorations

  • Author(s): Geller, Emma Harlan
  • Advisor(s): Stigler, James W.
  • et al.

Historically, the study of instruction and the study of cognitive processes involved in learning have proceeded in different fields with little overlap. Issues of random assignment and experimental control have made studies of cognition in educational settings difficult, expensive, and prone to failure, while well-controlled experiments often occur in contrived laboratory situations. More recent efforts have attempted to bridge these issues by using more educationally relevant materials in laboratory studies, and by bringing well-controlled experiments into the classroom. The recent proliferation of instructional video is one tool that provides an inexpensive, easily controllable, and ecologically valid way to study the effects of instruction on cognition and learning.

Much of the existing research on multimedia learning has focused on cognitive processes and instructional principles to improve learning, but there is little attention paid to the semantic understanding that students develop when they read or watch a lesson. The text comprehension literature offers a model for how understanding develops, and may be fruitful for studying video instruction. In three studies, I investigate the usefulness of text comprehension as a model for understanding instruction.

In the first study, I assess the effect of adding information that increases the local coherence of a lesson. These experiments show that additional information improves retention for some question types, but it is not clear whether the effect is due to increased salience of the particular information rather than local coherence per se. In the second study, I investigate the effect of segmenting and labeling portions of a lesson. These 5 experiments fail to show consistent patterns of results, but highlight the importance of participants’ prior knowledge and engagement with the lesson. In the last study, I evaluate the effects of advance organizers on learning. This experiment highlights the importance of the specific materials used and suggests that well-cited findings from the literature may not be easily replicable. Though these studies provide mixed results overall, they contribute to our understanding about how people learn from video by highlighting the importance of the materials we teach, the tests we use, and the prior knowledge of the participants.

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