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by Nick Weiss
Teacher and Director of Innovative Teaching and Learning, Prince of Peace Christian School (Carrollton, TX)

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December 20, 2017
PBL in a Video Production Class

by Nick Weiss
Teacher and Director of Innovative Teaching and Learning, Prince of Peace Christian School (Carrollton, TX)

Every time I assign a major video project early in the year in my high school Video Production class, I get a mixed bag of results. While my aim is always for students to produce professional-grade videos, I realize that the amount of core knowledge and feedback required to get there would burn out any student in one project. It takes a number of projects to get videos to the professional level.

As I reflected on the last project we did, I internalized the significance of what’s “in focus” at the center of BIE's Gold Standard Project Design Elements diagram: Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills.  

To get us rolling, here's a quick description of two types of student video products I generally see at the start of the year.

At Standard:
Some videos are the complete package. They make sense. They have a compelling opener, such as epic drone footage or a slow motion clip to capture the viewer's eye. As soon as the beat of the song changes, so does the pace of the cuts between clips. The climax of the song aligns with the climax of the footage. High energy audio is paired with high energy video. Finally, the video has an obvious conclusion. The song slows down, something in the dialogue wraps it up, and we feel a sense of completion.

Approaching Standard:
Some videos don't make complete sense. They have an opening, which might include some compelling clips, but when the beat drops the video cuts don't align. Clips are varied in length and don't really have a rhyme or reason with the pacing of the song. Some of the clips seem a little too long; some are poorly lit or shaky. They usually have a couple powerful moments where a piece of dialogue aligns perfectly with the clips they chose, and we see glimpses of what could be a great video. It ends with you feeling like "that was it?" and the story was never really wrapped up.

As I assess both of these types of final products, I see key knowledge, understanding, and success skills at work in each student.

Key Knowledge and Understanding
In order for students to self assess (coming below), they need key knowledge and understanding. The students who take my class a second year possess a great amount of content knowledge. You can see it in the way they think about their videos as they create and edit. The way they look at video is totally different than a first year video production student.

Success Skills
Here are ten self-assessments/examples of critical thinking that advanced video editors use that beginners don't:

  1. That clip is grainy b/c the ISO was too high, I can't use it.
  2. That clip was shaky, can't use it.
  3. This clip is framed up really well. I'll try to find a place for it.
  4. This song doesn't ebb and flow; it's a constant loop that doesn't tell a story... Need to find a track that changes often and climaxes so that my viewers don't get bored.
  5. This piece of dialogue would make a great introduction.
  6. Wow, I could see this drone clip as great way to visually conclude my video.
  7. The climax of the song is at 1:30. I need to save my best clip(s) for that part of the video.
  8. My video doesn't end well. I need a piece of dialogue that will wrap this up, or I need to figure out how to edit the song to make it close out smoothly. 
  9. The song picks up at 0:45. I need to make my cuts shorter and increase the number of clips I use to match the pace of the song.
  10. That audio sounds like a blown-out speaker. I need to re-shoot, can't settle for anything less.

If I spent more time thinking about this, I could easily add another 100 items.

So what do we do as parents/teachers when our kids/students show varying levels of work?

Giving Useful Feedback
Regardless of the perceived quality of the end product, a pair of simple "I like" and "I wonder" statements can go a long way. Always balance positive comments with those that critique. It's tempting to say one "I like" statement and pair it with five "I wonders," but that simply overwhelms the students and does no good. You may not be a video production expert (maybe you are!), but that doesn't mean that you can't offer some significant feedback. You can never go wrong with a kind, specific, I like statement!

The Power of Formative Assessment
Make self- and peer-assessment part of your class culture and you'll start seeing growth before you know it. My favorite ways to do this are using rubrics and protocols. For each major video project, students go through a round of self-assessment, peer assessment, and expert assessment using a rubric as a guide. Most of the time, the students help me make the rubric. Early on, we identify that key knowledge and understanding that they later use to help critique their work.

The other strategies I use to build student assessment skills are the Charrette Protocol, the Tuning Protocol, and the Gallery Walk, all of which BIE uses in its PBL 101 workshop.

The more students get used to doing these types of activities, the better they become at judging their own work. As a result, their final products will get better and they'll feel more in control of their learning and growth.


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