Academic journal article Journal of Instructional Psychology

Video-Based Test Questions: A Novel Means of Evaluation

Academic journal article Journal of Instructional Psychology

Video-Based Test Questions: A Novel Means of Evaluation

Article excerpt

Many psychology instructors present videotaped examples of behavior at least occasionally during their courses. However, few include video clips during examinations. We provide examples of video-based questions, offer guidelines for their use, and discuss their benefits and drawbacks. In addition, we provide empirical evidence to support the use of video-based test questions. The data indicate that students preferred video-based questions to multiple-choice questions on a variety of outcome variables, and data suggest that student learning may be enhanced. The use of video-based test questions that is discussed in this paper can be applied to a variety of educational disciplines and levels.


Most instructors agree that high-quality examinations in courses should serve the dual goals of instruction and evaluation (Renner & Renner, 1999). Traditionally, these goals have been served by six types of questions: multiple-choice, true-false, matching, fill-in-the-blank, computation-based, and essay. We propose the inclusion of questions based on video clips in which students respond to behavioral data during exams. In this article we provide examples of video-based questions in the field of psychology, offer guidelines for their use, discuss their benefits and drawbacks, and provide data supporting the utility of video-based questions. We have opted to present the idea of video-based assessment through the lens of psychology. However, video-based test questions could be utilized in any discipline relating to behavior (e.g., ethological sections of biology courses, education courses) and be adapted to any educational level.

Given the fundamental basis of behavior in psychology, it is interesting that instructors show videos during non-exam class sessions to demonstrate psychological principles, but do not employ video-based questions on exams. There is no mention of video-based questions in major pedagogical books (e.g., Lowman, 1995; McKeachie, 2002), as well as in articles that promote the use of videos for psychology courses (e.g., Boyatzis, 1994; Green, 2003; Hollander, 2000). Video-based questions might fall under the umbrella of performance tests (Davis, 1993), although a more typical member of this category would be laboratory tasks.

We have successfully used video clips on exams that (a) were already viewed by students in class when originally learning material, (b) were based on lectures and discussion but had not been seen by students, and (c) were similar but not identical to video clips when originally learning material. In a developmental psychology course, for example, the first author presented video clips of the same infant engaging in classic Piagetian tasks over the first two years of life during non-exam class sessions. For the exam, students viewed one of these clips and applied their knowledge of assimilation and accommodation via essay to the presented behavioral observations, as well as answered a multiple-choice question inquiring about the infant's specific stage of sensorimotor development. In an introductory psychology exam, the second author presented a clip that students had never viewed of a patient displaying symptoms of schizophrenia and asked students to list the symptoms of the patient along with examples of his behavior to substantiate the symptoms they listed. In a different introductory class session, the second author presented a video of a split brain patient named "Joe" answering questions about visual images presented to either his left or right visual fields. During the exam, the instructor showed a similar video of a split brain patient named "Vicki" and asked students to explain the results of her test.

Video-Based Questions: Guidelines, Benefits, and Drawbacks

Instructors should consider several factors when employing video-based questions. First, to conserve class time, clips of behavioral data should be no longer than 2 or 3 minutes. …

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