Videos as Formative Assessment

I have this little project going over on Vimeo called the Video Story Problem Channel, and up until now most of the teachers involved have been creating a lot of really great student-created videos based around actual math from the real world (video from restaurants, home improvements stores, four wheeler races, etc.). Recently, I’ve been dabbling more with science-based videos, and wondering if there isn’t a way to encourage students and teachers in disciplines outside of the typical math classroom to latch onto the idea of creating videos of curiosity to help provide some learning experiences that are slightly more authentic than what we find in a text book (paper or digital).

With that in mind, I created a short video in an attempt to provide a prompt for talking about viscosity. I intended to have the video serve as a prompt that might engage students to start thinking about what they already know about fluids, how they move, and maybe perhaps formulate a rough concept of what viscosity means. However, it could also serve as a formative assessment piece, one that requires the students to process what they may have been learning about fluid dynamics or viscosity, apply it to the leading questions in the video below, and then try to apply their growing understanding of the concept by creating their own video.


Now, the question I know many teachers are going to ask is “doesn’t this take a lot of time?” My reply would be “yes….and, no”. If you look at just using a simple substitution of your usual content with this video, and then expecting the students to author, shoot, create, and publish the film in your classroom, it’s going to take a tremendous amount of time. More so if they’ve never done a media project like this before. However, if you’re willing to be flexible with your time-tables, and can afford some independence to your learners, you could certainly assign this as weekend homework, or maybe as an ongoing activity over the course of a unit. Students might be given some small amounts of “flex time” in your classroom, and use some time outside of class, to put together their example video.

Regardless of how you set it up, the result is that you’ve got a really nice piece of formative assessment data, complete with some real world application, that will give you a much deeper understanding of how the students are grasping the concept, and more importantly trying to apply it to the world. The videos could then serve as examples for future courses or learners in other sections of the course. Once you’ve completed a few rounds of this type of video-based assessment, you’d have a nice snowballing of students video production skills and a level of comfort with the process that should help the students become more independent in creating and publishing them. Which in turn helps us lean towards the “not really” answer when the teacher across the hall wants to try and asks if it’s going to take a lot of time. Because we’re all supposed to be working towards the long-term growth and acquisition of skills, right?


  1. This was very interesting. I like the idea of recording videos for students to watch to better grasp the material. I think I’ll try and use that method later on in my career after I get my degree and certification.

  2. As a 7th grade social studies teacher, I think video is ideal for assessment of the events of history. Historical events and people have always been the fodder for plays, movies and tv shows, so why not student assessment? I have students present skits and other types of presentations all the time. I like to do Oprah style talk shows where the guests are famous people of history, tv news reporting of events such as the Norman Invasion or the marriage of Henry the 8th with Anne Boleyn. Now, as someone who is gingerly moving toward the goal of being “tech savvy” I have made student videotaping of these presentations optional, with some opting for it, and others not. The videos have been merely recordings of what they would have done in class. I feel like it is time to move them (and myself) to another level. Reading your blog is a baby step. Thanks!


    1. I love the idea go incorporating mini talk shows or documentary-like vignettes of historical newscasts! I find the more you let kids play with concepts, the more they can produce material that surprises. I like that you’re taking it simple, baby steps at first with the video of presentations; it helps with those that may be camera shy, or don’t feel that they’re ready for more creative work. Keep building, and pushing, you and your students!

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