ERIC Identifier: ED318464
Publication Date: 1989-12-00
Author: Barron, Linda - And Others
Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY.
Enhancing Learning in At-Risk Students: Applications of Video
Technology. ERIC Digest.
Most educators today agree that we have a serious problem with respect to
learners who are at risk of school failure. The purpose of this digest is to
explore some possible uses of video technology that have been shown to be
effective for enhancing learning in at-risk students.
LEARNING AND AT-RISK STUDENTS
It is extremely difficult to
define who is at-risk and who is not because being at-risk is not related to a
single cause, but rather to what Mann (1986) refers to as a "nesting of
antecedent problems." However, most agree that at-risk learners are generally
One reason for at-risk students' difficulty with learning is that much of
current instruction for these students is remedial and is focused on
transferring information in the form of facts and procedures. Unfortunately,
information presented as facts is then stored as facts, and for most students it
is not recognized as knowledge to be used to solve problems. The consequence is
that the facts remain inert and often are not spontaneously used in problem
solving situations (Bransford, Sherwood, Hasselbring, Kinzer, & Williams, in
press; Whitehead, 1929). Indeed, findings from the National Assessment of
Educational Progress (Dossey, Mullis, Lindquist, & Chambers, 1988) indicate
that American students have significant difficulties in reasoning and in putting
what they have learned in school to use in solving problems. It appears that our
present system of formal education is doing a rather poor job of attaining this
goal, especially with students who are at risk for school failure.
SHARED LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS AND THE ROLE OF VIDEO
The concept of contextualized learning environments arises out of
the recognition that students, particularly at-risk students, who are introduced
to concepts and strategies out of a meaningful context will view them as
irrelevant to daily life. Much of the work at Vanderbilt University's Learning
Technology Center over the past five years has examined the use of shared
contextualized learning environments and the effect of these environments on
It appears that children often learn well when they and a mediator share a
context or event that can be mutually explored (Feuerstein, Rand, Hoffman, &
Miller, 1980). For example, Sherwood, Kinzer, Bransford, & Franks (1987)
note that mediators, such as parents, siblings, peers, and other adults, can
arrange the environment so that learners will encounter certain experiences.
They can also help learners separate relevant from irrelevant information and
connect present experiences with previous knowledge. Finally, mediators monitor
the performance of learners to encourage as much independent performance as
In the classroom, teachers play the role of mediator and try to help students
relate new information to previously acquired knowledge. The teachers, however,
often do not know which experiences are relevant for a particular child. This is
a situation in which technology such as videotape and random access videodisc
becomes especially valuable. With these tools teachers can create contexts that
teachers and children can share. Video technology may not substitute for
hands-on activities in various real world contexts; however, in some situations
video is even superior to a field trip to the grocery store or zoo because the
video can be replayed and reviewed as often as necessary.
Bransford et al., (in press) note three advantages to the use of video-based
contexts. First, they provide rich sources of information with opportunities to
notice sensory images, dynamic features, relevant issues, and inherent problems.
Second, they give students the ability to perceive dynamic moving events and to
more easily form rich mental models. This advantage is particularly important
for lower achieving students and for students with low knowledge in the domain
of interest. Third, video allows students to develop skills of pattern
recognition which are related to visual and auditory cues rather than to events
labeled by the teacher. In sum, video images are ideal for creating a common
experience for the teacher and learner that can be used for "anchoring" new
VIDEO APPLICATIONS FOR AT-RISK STUDENTS
instruction projects have been conducted at the Learning Technology Center and
have shown definite advantages for learning in students considered to be at risk
of school failure. Following are short descriptions of two of these projects.
Anchored Instruction in the Preschool--Johnson's 1987 study of preschoolers
who were considered at risk was designed to ask whether story comprehension
could be improved if students had the opportunity to experience the story within
a rich, video-based context. He divided the at-risk students into two groups. He
read the beginning of a simplified version of SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON to one group
and showed the other group a videodisc of the same part of the story.
Johnson found that both groups learned from the story; however, the videodisc
group learned far more. In the text-only condition, students had to use their
imagination to understand such things as the force that a storm must generate to
smash a huge sailing ship upon rocks. Most of the students in Johnson's study,
however, did not have the background experience or knowledge to imagine this.
They had no experience with storms on the ocean, huge waves, or large sailing
ships. The teacher could only describe what it must have been like for the
Robinson family. By contrast, the video group could experience the storm
vicariously through the video. The teacher was able to anchor new knowledge and
understanding of storms, waves, and sailing ships by revisiting the video.
The Young Sherlock Project--A second anchored instruction project was
designed using the movie THE YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES as the anchor for learning.
This project was conducted in fifth grade classes and designed to help students
learn language arts and social studies content. The experimental group,
comprised of both at-risk and average ability students, received instruction
within the context of THE YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES. The matched comparison group
received the same information without the benefit of the video anchor.
The study showed that the students in the anchored group were much more
likely to use new targeted vocabulary spontaneously than students in the
comparison group. Further, the results of the studies on writing showed that the
stories written by the anchored instruction group contained many story elements
and their plots were more likely to link character actions and events to goal
statements and goal resolution (Risko et al., 1989). Finally, students in the
anchored group were much more likely to use historical information to make
inferences about the motives of characters in other turn-of-the-century stories
they read and videos they saw (Kinzer & Risko, 1988).
The data from these projects, and others that are being conducted across the
country, offer an opportunity to merge recent knowledge about cognition,
instruction, and culture with video technology to develop instructional systems
that can make significant changes in the way the teaching and learning process
for at-risk students is thought about and carried out in the schools. It must be
emphasized, however, that it is the merging of information from these
disciplines with technology that can make a difference, not the technology
Bransford, J. D., Sherwood, R. D., Hasselberg,
T. S., Kinzer, C. K., & Williams, S. M. (in press). Anchored instruction:
Why we need it and how technology can help. In D. Nix, & R. Spiro (Eds.),
ADVANCES IN COMPUTERS AND INSTRUCTION. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Dossey, J. D., Mullis, I. V., Lindquist, M. M., & Chambers, D. L. (1988).
THE MATHEMATICS REPORT CARD: ARE WE MEASURING UP? Princeton, N.J.: Educational
Testing Service. ED 300 206.
Feuerstein, R., Rand, Y., Hoffman, M. B., & Miller, R. (1980).
INSTRUMENTAL ENRICHMENT. Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.
Johnson, R. (1987). Uses of video technology to facilitate children's
learning. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Vanderbilt University, Nashville,
Kinzer, C. K., & Risko, V. J. (1988). Macrocontexts to facilitate
learning. Paper presented at the 33rd Annual Conference of International Reading
Association, Toronto, Ontario.
Mann, D. (1986). Can we help dropouts? Thinking about the undoable. TEACHERS
COLLEGE REPORT 87(3).
Risko, V. J., Kinzer, C. K., Goodman, J., McLarty, K., Dupree, A., &
Martin, H. (1989). Effects of macrocontexts on reading comprehension,
composition of stories, and vocabulary development. Paper presented at the
meeting of the American Education Research Association, San Francisco, CA.
Sherwood, R. D., Kinzer, C. K., Bransford, J. D., & Franks, J. J. (1987).
Some benefits of creating macro-contexts for science instruction: Initial
findings. JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING 24(5), 417-435.
Whitehead, A. N. (1929). THE AIMS OF EDUCATION. New York: MacMillan.
* Contributors to this digest include: Linda Barron, John Bransford, Bill
Corbin, Laura Goin, Elizabeth Goldman, Susan Goldman, Ted Hasselbring, Charles
Kinzer, Vicki Risko, Robert Sherwood, Tom Sturdevant, Nancy Vye, Susan Williams,
and Michael Young.