Using video in informal learning science settings: Selection, analysis, management, and the question of ethics

By Bronwyn Bevan - March 2011


Derry, S. J., Pea, R. D., Barron, B., Engle, R. A., Erickson, F., Goldman, R., Hall, R., Koschmann, T., Lemke, J. L., Sherin, M. G., & Sherin, B. L. (2010). Conducting video research in the learning sciences: Guidance on selection, analysis, technology, and ethics. Journal of the Learning Sciences19(1), 3–53.

If you are using or considering using video as a research tool in informal settings, this paper provides multiple perspectives on approaches to video-clip selection, video data analysis, video data management and sharing, and the ethics of using video. It raises fundamental questions that can guide your use of video in informal settings.

Video is a potentially powerful research tool for informal settings because it can be less intrusive than methods that require learners to stop their flow of activity to answer questions. In this paper, the authors discuss a number of issues that can help you to design and implement video data collection in informal settings. For example, which video clips are selected for a study depends on whether the video is being used as a source for analysis or as material for constructing a narrative. In the latter case, you might deliberately seek to capture moments that tell the story you are seeking to illustrate. In the former case, you might want to more systematically collect and then analyze video recordings of different moments to seek patterns or frequencies of specific events or developments. The authors discuss the ways in which the unit of analysis, and also the use of theory, must guide what is selected. In terms of analysis, because video may later be viewed by new people in new contexts, the authors stress the importance of articulating and recording the rationales for how and why data are selected. Technical guidance is provided on approaches to data analysis, with respect to indexing, coding, etc. Several different approaches are reviewed, with a strong recommendation to use more than one method of representing data to increase the credibility and validity of one's conclusions. The authors discuss a variety of tools developed to share, analyze, organize, and report on video data. They argue that enough data must be made available to support a critical review of the research findings and argument. The authors review basic issues with respect to IRB approvals and raise issues about how to design studies that both protect the privacy and confidentiality of those videotaped and create mechanisms to share and build knowledge. If you plan to collect video data in your institution, be sure to provide adequate time for appropriate IRB processes, as the use of video often raises more concerns about privacy and confidentiality than methods that don't use video, and thus securing approval may take more time.