What makes a good instructional video?

This blogpost is based on a presentation I gave to colleagues at the start of this term. At the end of this post, I share concrete examples from my instructional videos.

I blogged earlier about making instructional videos as we were entering our first period of remote learning. My colleagues and I went on to make many instructional videos to support our students and, as you can imagine, we learnt a lot. My last blog was about the technical nuts and bolts of getting a video out there, which is a big hurdle for many to get over.

But what makes a good instructional video? What does the research say, and how can it help us think about organising the content of our videos?

Videos should have a clear instructional purpose

In this graphic, I hope to show that the goal during remote learning should be to leverage technology in service of what we know to be good quality instruction. While teaching is much more difficult when you are not in the same room as your students, video can be a powerful tool for providing students with worked examples, teacher modelling and pseudo-guided practice. Videos also have limitations, and teachers shouldn’t forget the importance of independent practice as a stage towards proficiency.

What does the research tell us about what makes a good video?

Richard Mayer has developed dozens of principles for multimedia learning. The four above are principles that I think are both important and easy to implement. Keep your videos simple, containing only essential information and present them in a way that is most helpful for your students to understand.

In addition to these principles, Blake Harvard has written a blog exploring further principles:

  • Dynamic Drawing Principle: If students learn better from images and diagrams that you draw live, it may be better to consider using a document camera or digital whiteboard in combination with an Apple Pencil rather than pre-prepared static slides.
  • Generative Activity Principle: Don’t think of videos as just a means of presenting information. Incorporate student activity into the video so students aren’t passive.

How might you structure your video?

The image above represents how I structure pretty much every video I make now. I start with my face introducing the lesson, I ask students to prepare their materials, then I provide instruction with pause points interspersed throughout for students to consolidate their understanding with a short activity. Then I summarise what we’ve learned and prompt my students to engage with the independent activity.

For examples of what this structure looks like in the videos I’ve made, watch the video below:

Further reading

  • How to Use Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning | link
  • What does the research say about designing video lessons? By Daisy Christodoulou | link
  • Study of Asynchronous Videos and Discussion, 10 min video by Teach Like a Champion | link
  • Adding Pause Points to Allow for Consolidation of Working Memory, 6 min video by TLAC | link
  • Dissolve the Screen, 6 min video by TLAC | link
  • Procedures and Routines in Remote Learning, 9 min video by TLAC | link
  • Making Instructional Videos by Brad Nguyen | link
  • Two posts about read aloud videos by TLAC | link 1 & link 2

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