Students make gains in literacy by seeing themselves read fluently on edited videos

iStock_000022973452XSmallA technology known as “video feedforward,” which allows people to view edited video images of themselves performing a skill they have not yet mastered, has been used successfully in athletic training and in behavior modification. According to an article in The Journal of Special Education, video feedforward could also be used to develop literacy with elementary school students.

The technique was used in combination with a tutoring program for 10 struggling readers from several first-grade classes in an urban school in Honolulu and resulted in significant improvement in reading fluency, the researchers report. Fluency scores on average improved from 7.2 words read correctly per minute to 21.2 words per minute over the six to 12 weeks of the intervention. Gains in fluency were accelerated during the weeks in the program when the students viewed their videos.

Underutilized strategy

“The strategy of putting positive personal images of future competencies on videotape, in general, has been greatly underused in more than 25 years of study,” the researchers write. “The results of this study should encourage special educators and psychologists to adopt or adapt the use of such strategies in the context of literacy development. The combination of video and tutoring clearly was a support for these children.”

While educators have typically not had the time and inclination to use more technology in the classroom, the researchers say the technology is now more readily available with digital video and better hard drives that make editing easier. They also suggest that high school students could be trained for tutoring and are a good resource for technology.

Video feedforward has been used in hundreds of applications to allow self-modeling of success in performing a challenging task. In skating, for example, a skater videotaped performing elements of a jump (take off, spin, landing) could observe herself performing a triple lutz that she has not yet mastered on an edited tape. Video feedforward has been used in special education with school-age children to modify behavior.

Changes in behavior

In one study, researchers videotaped boys with classroom behavior problems and edited video selections of positive examples of the boys’ behaviors. Each student watched his own videotape once a day for five days. The rates of inappropriate behavior declined dramatically, the researchers reported.

The equipment needed for this study included a Hi-8mm camcorder for videotaping the students while they were reading and a Draco Casablanca digital editing system to edit the footage so that the children could later view themselves reading fluently on the school’s video equipment. Three adult volunteers were recruited and trained to be tutors for the 10 children

A typical tutoring session was for 25 minutes four times a week. Both student and tutor chose a book from the library that was somewhat challenging for the child to read. The tutor would read the story slowly and expressively while the child joined in unison reading. Then the tutor would read a phrase and the child would read it (echo reading). Then they would discuss the story and questions about the book.

Video edited to show fluency

After 3 or 4 weeks of tutoring, video was recorded during a regular session. “The footage was edited to show fluent passage reading of a challenging text and accurate recognition of sight words on flashcards. Each finished tape was fewer than 2 minutes long, beginning with the child’ name. The images of fluent passage reading were achieved mostly by capturing the child’s echo reading, editing out the tutor’s modeling, and interspersing glimpses of the tutor’s face as cutaways.”

It was important to select difficult words for the video feedforward, the researchers note. The children were taped recognizing words on flashcards after the sixth or seventh time through the cards. “From the outset, our approach invoked the general principle of feedforward: to promote images of future success where there was previously a history of failure,” the researchers note.

The videos took an hour to make: videotaping during a 25-minute tutoring session plus editing time of 30 minutes or less. The videos were showed to the students some time between the 5th and 8th week of tutoring. The video was shown for 2 sessions and then it was up to the student whether they wanted to continue watching the video in subsequent sessions. Only three students watched the video again.

The researchers noted that the videos have a limited shelf-life. If a student learns all the words on the video that video no longer provides feedforward and if a student does not improve, he or she is likely to become bored.

While the feasibility of using this technique in the classroom remains an issue, the researchers conclude “that video images of success with challenging materials may enhance the acquisition of reading skills.” For a description, go to:
“Video Feedforward for Reading” The Journal of Special Education, Volume 39, Number 4, Winter 2006.

Published in ERN April 2006 Volume 19 Number 4

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