Spring 1991 // Volume 29 // Number 1 // Feature Articles // 1FEA4

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Higher Impact Instructional Videos

The major purpose of this study was to determine if inserting questions with feedback in an instructional video program would enhance learning. A secondary purpose was to examine the effects of two kinds of application questions.

Susan J. Barkman
Associate Professor
4-H and Youth Development
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

Videos are becoming commonplace as a way to supplement curriculum. However, many Extension videos still mimic televised instruction-simply recording a live demonstration on tape. As the use of video increases, Extension professionals need to investigate ways of designing video programs that actively stimulate and encourage learning. Learning during a program can be increased when the program requires meaningful processing of information.1

Although viewing video programs has traditionally been a passive process, introducing appropriate cognitive activities into the program requires the learner to invest more mental effort in the nonautomatic processing of information. Since it's impractical to have interactive video-computer systems in every county office or home, Extension professionals can use activity- oriented techniques like inserting questions in their video programs. These questions require either a covert or overt response from the learner.

Field Study

The major purpose of this study was to determine if inserting questions with feedback in an instructional video program would enhance learning. Two major predictions were made. First, that inserted questions would facilitate acquisition of related information, thereby improving overall performance on the post-test. Second, since questions would give the subject an opportunity to practice each subcomponent skill, less time would be needed to perform skills on the post-test.

A secondary purpose was to examine the effects of two kinds of application questions. First, it was predicted that both use- concept and use-procedure level questions would facilitate learning. Second, it was predicted that inserted questions would be more effective in improving learning of quantitative than qualitative evaluation skills.


Two versions of an instructional video on beef carcass evaluation were produced for this study. The two versions, interactive (I) and conventional (C), varied in their approach to directing activity for the learner. Both versions contained the same visual information with the exception of inserted questions on the visual and audio channels of the interactive version. The conventional version had no inserted questions and a slightly different audio script to replace the questions on the interactive version.

The design of the instructional presentation followed the prescriptions outlined by the Component Display Theory.2 In both versions, two carcass examples were shown. Carcass 1 was used as an example to demonstrate the evaluation component technique in both videos. Carcass 2 was used as another example in the conventional version, but in the interactive version, Carcass 2 was used in connection with the inserted question and served as a practice example. Table 1 indicates the instructional presentation for the qualitative skills (maturity, marbling, color, and quality grade) and the quantitative measures (fat depth, percent of kidney, pelvic and heart fat, and yield grade).

Table 1. Instructional presentation for each evaluation skill.

Instructional presentation Evaluation skills
Qualitative Quantitative
Generality Present concept definition. Explanation of the process for completing the procedure.
Example Illustrate concept on carcass 1. Demonstrate procedure on carcass 1.
Practice Inserted question asks learner Inserted questions ask learner to classify new example carcass 2. to perform procedure on carcass 2.
Feedback Feedback provides type and direction of error. Feedback provides type and direction of error.

A total of 112 Indiana 4-Hers (ages 16-19) were randomly assigned to each treatment group. 4-Hers in the "I" and "C" treatment groups were given the same instructions with one exception. The "I" group received special instructions on using the worksheet to record their answers throughout the program. After viewing the instructional video, 4-Hers from both treatment groups were assigned a time to report to the walk-in refrigerated cooler for performance testing. One 4-Her from each treatment group was tested at the same time.

Learning was assessed by the learner's ability to perform an actual evaluation of two beef carcasses. Each carcass was split in half and ribbed between the 12th and 13th ribs. Carcasses were hung from a railing in a refrigerated cooler. Performance was assessed using five criteria: total criterion score, qualitative component score, quantitative component score, time-on-task score, and observation score.


The Wilcoxon rank-sum test (a nonparametric test) was used to determine whether the performance of the two treatment groups differed significantly. Table 2 displays the mean scores by treatment group for each of the five performance criteria. The results showed that 4-Hers from both treatment groups were able to perform the procedural skill after the viewing the video. However, analysis of both total criterion and performance observation scores showed that learners required to answer questions and given feedback on their response while viewing the video performed the overall carcass evaluation more accurately than nonactive learners. This supports the first prediction that inserted questions significantly increased learning.

Table 2. Mean performance scores by treatment group.

Criteria Treatment
Interactive Conventional
Total criterion
M 117.2 87.6
SD 7.2 12.7
M 18.4 13.6
SD 2.5 3.9
M 21.8 22.8
SD 2.5 3.1
M 64.2 56.0
SD 3.8 10.6
M 53.0 32.0
SD 7.2 12.7

The results of the study didn't support the second prediction-subjects answering questions while viewing the video would need less time to perform skills on the post-test. The results indicated no significant improvement in time used to perform evaluation skills on the post-test.

The results indicated that both use-concept and use- procedure questions facilitated learning. Learners who viewed the program with inserted use-concept questions scored significantly higher on post-test qualitative evaluation performance than learners in the conventional treatment group. Likewise, learners who viewed the program with inserted use-procedure questions scored significantly higher on post-test quantitative evaluation performance than learners in the conventional treatment group.

Although the two types of questions (use-concept and use- procedure) led learners to retain different kinds of information, both facilitated learning of question-relevant information. Andre proposes that this difference in processing occurs because, after answering the question, learners store the operation they just performed on the information in memory.3 It's this processing that's retained.

Analysis of study results indicated support for the last prediction. Although inserted questions facilitated learning of both qualitative and quantitative evaluation skills, they were more effective in improving quantitative skills.

Programming Implications

The results of this study indicate that questions with feedback can be used in instructional video programs, as they have in print media, to guide viewers' processing activities and affect learning. Extension professionals need to consider several factors when making design decisions about incorporating inserted questions in television programs. Please note that the design decisions described below are for instructional videos, not motivational or informational video programs.

  1. Determine the type of content you want to teach and the desired level of performance (what you want the learner to do with that content) using Merrill's Component Display Theory.4

    Type of Content

    Fact: simple associations between names, objects, symbols, or locations.

    Concepts: categories of classifications defined by certain specific characteristics.

    Procedures: ordered sequences of steps or operations performed on a single object or in a specific situation.

    Principles: explanations or predictions of why things happen in the world.

    Performance Level

    Remember: requires learners to search memory to reproduce or recognize some item of information previously stored.

    Use: requires learners to apply some abstraction to a specific case.

    Find: requires learners to derive or invent a new abstraction.

  2. Using this content-performance level, design the instructional presentation following Merrill's presentation form prescription.5 Table 1 shows how the prescriptions for use- concept and use-procedure were used in this study. Refer to Merrill for prescriptions related to other content-performance levels.

  3. The type of inserted question should match the content-level of performance. If the content was classified as a "procedure'"and the level of performance was classified as "use," then the inserted question should ask the learner to use that procedure on a new example.

  4. The response from the learner (overt or covert) should be determined by the nature of the task. The procedural skill in this study required some writing; therefore, the question required learners to record their answers on a scoresheet just like they would during an actual carcass evaluation. The learner not only had an opportunity to practice the evaluation skill, but also practice using the scoresheet.

  5. The feedback should be "quantitative" in nature. The feedback should provide information on the type, extent, and direction of the error so the learner can make any needed corrections in performance. For example, in this study, the feedback consisted of going over each step in the evaluation skill including the math calculations, so the learner could see exactly where mistakes were made.

It should be noted that the above design decisions can also be used in designing printed instructional materials and training workshops.

In summary, the results of this study indicate that inserting questions in instructional videos does facilitate learning.


1. R. C. Anderson, "Educational Psychology," Annual Review of Psychology, XVIII, 1967, 103-64.

2. M. D. Merrill, "Component Display Theory," in Instructional- Design Theories and Models: An Overview of Their Current Status, C. M. Reigeluth, ed. (Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1983).

3. T. Andre, "Does Answering Higher Level Questions While Reading Facilitate Productive Learning?" Review of Educational Research, IXL (No. 2, 1979), 280-318.

4. Merrill, "Component Display Theory."

5. Ibid.