Film production as a means to measure learning
This briefing paper will have two main themes of product and process but will also consider the value of film production for making assessment more valid and enabling authentic assessment. We also need to think whether the making and / or content film is the sole focus of the assessment or whether the film is adding to another method of assessment; adding a visual strand of evidence to, say, an essay, portfolio or patchwork.
Product and process: all assessment methods should be constructively aligned to the intended learning outcomes, and in the case of film / video production this requires us to be clear whether we are assessing the process of making the film / video (including scripting, editing, composition, etc.) or assessing the finished product in terms of its scholarly content (accepting basic recordings and raw footage) or both. It is apparent that the former will require the opportunity for students to develop the skills of the film-maker to some degree and have access to the appropriate kit, whilst the latter may accept a basic video made on a tablet or phone. In addition, we have to recognise that if we plan to asses either process or both process and product then students will need some grounding in the theoretical underpinning of visual medial; the fundamentals of aesthetic and visual culture theory.
Valid assessment: the test measure what it is supposed to measure; the characteristic(s) that you want demonstrated have to be evidenced in order to pass the test.
Authentic assessment: a form of assessment in which students perform real-world tasks that demonstrate application of essential knowledge and skills. The important point here is the real world which allows us to measure transferable and employability skills.
If we want to know if someone is safe to drive independently on the road then, yes, we want to know that they have knowledge of the rules of the road and the vehicle that they are driving and this can be tested in a valid way by a quiz, essay or computer simulation (valid assessment). However, to know that they have a baseline competency to drive safely the valid approach is to observe their performance out on the highway over a period of time (valid and authentic assessment).
Making a film or video can enable us to capture student’s work:
- to assess skills not easily caught by other means, such as presentation or interview skills (valid and authentic)
- when the presence of the tutor could either interfere with, or detract from, the process (valid)
- to extend the opportunity for critical review and feedback.
Thinking at the LSE (n.d.) takes us further to consider visual media (video and photography) rather than restricting ourselves to film and suggest that visual media could comprise a stand-alone assignment (photo-essays, photo montage, documentary shorts, filmed interviews, ethnographic observational video, digital storytelling) or enhance and extend another assessment method (reflective written work, production diaries, reports or essays with added visual components).
What can film production assess?
Process: the focus is on the production rather than the scholarly content of the film.
Whilst our Department of Film & Television Studies (https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/film) are far better qualified to suggest criteria and rubrics for marking film production, some thoughts on the basic elements we might review include:
- use of the medium: how well was the medium used to answer the question?
- script: how well is the content explained by use of the medium?
- score: if sound is used, did it support / extend / enhance?
- cinematography: how good was the filming / composition / imagery?
- editing: was the editing clean or choppy? Was the flow consistent?
Product: the focus is on the scholarly content / achievement rather than the production of the film. If we are using a film as a means to capture an interview between: a patient and a student doctor; subject and researcher; client and engineer; etc. (all good authentic assessments) then the medium can give us the evidence of the student’s:
- questioning style
- listening skills
- time management
- summarising skills
- consultancy skills
- whatever we value in the particular instance.
Process and product: any, or all, of the above.
Most has been said already, but summarising design elements:
- is the film a part of another assessment process or the focus of the assessment: what is its role?
- be clear about product, process or both
- ensure constructive alignment of the task(s) with the intended learning outcomes
- ensure that the assessment criteria / rubrics are clear
- decide who will be involved in the assessment: self; peer; tutor
- make available any necessary kit
- give access to training in the use of kit, as needed
- take account of the sort of time needed
- is there a need for a fundamental course in aesthetic and visual theory?
Diversity & inclusion
The opportunity to use a wider range of methods will ensure that all students have opportunity to evidence their abilities. However, the need for kit and access to specialist training and resources (e.g. editing suite) that may have restricted availability may cause problems for some.
Digital files have embedded metadata (time, date, location, capture device, etc.) which can be queried if you suspect that students are submitting work of others. Hence, insisting that students only submit work that is produced by themselves can reduce of plagiarism. (Click here for further guidance on plagiarism.)
Student and staff experience
Wexler (2016) suggest seven benefits of video-based assessment, and the following list is adapted from that source:
- can assess otherwise unreachable places / skills: see above re valid and authentic assessment
- breadth and depth of feedback: the recording allows multiple views by, possibly, multiple assessors / reviewers
- self-assessment: the learner can bring their thinking to the feedback meeting
- beyond soft skills: a film could be made of a student talking through the way they solve a problem / understanding of a concept
- practice makes perfect: students can self-review and repeat the recording if not satisfied
- diversity: can support alternative means of assessment for students with special educational needs
- often find greater commitment from students: they truly own the video
- an engaging alternative to written assignments.
LSE (2017) adds a useful insight “While the prospect of developing entirely new skills in the context of a summative assessment is initially daunting for some, students have been observed to very quickly progress to positive and productive engagement with assignment tasks, and explore how to express ideas and arguments through visual means. Students appreciate the opportunity to apply their academic skills in a different way.” A ringing endorsement, but note the time /work load point.
The need for specialist equipment has implications for cost and accessibility. Availability of equipment may require students to come onto campus at specific times, thus impacting on flexibility and accessibility.
For students this will depend on their prior grasp of the technologies / kit. Staff say that they might spend slightly longer giving feedback but the depth and quality is much greater.
Allain, R. (2017).The Best Way to Test Students? Make Them Explain It On Video. WIRED.
Gold, A., Oonk, D., Smith, L., Boykoff, M., Osnes, B. and Sullivan, S. (2015). Lens on Climate Change: Making Climate Meaningful Through Student-Produced Videos. Journal of Geography 114 (6), 1-12.
Kearney, M., (2011). A Learning Design for Student-generated Digital Storytelling. Learning, Media and Technology. 36 (2), 169-88.
Schmoelz, A. (2018). Enabling Co-creativity through Digital Storytelling in Education. Thinking Skills and Creativity. 28, 1-13.
Schultz, P. and Quinn, A. (2014). Lights, Camera, Action! Learning About Management with Student-Produced Video Assignments. Journal of Management Education. 38 (2), 234-58.
DS106: The Digital Storytelling Course, University of Mary Washington.