The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Action!: Video-Making in Social Work Education

Friday, January 18, 2013: 8:30 AM
Executive Center 1 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Kristie A. Thomas, PhD, Assistant Professor, Simmons College, Boston, MA
Liza Marks, BA, MSW student, Simmons College, Boston, MA
Purpose: Graduate social work programs play an important role in educating students about community organizing and development. The literature, however, offers little guidance for instructors. Assigning student-generated videos is a potentially valuable teaching strategy warranting further investigation (Boehm, 2004; Ellis & Garland, 2000). The authors present findings from a study aimed at evaluating the utility of a project developed by the first author and assigned to students in an MSW community development course. The project involved creating a 10-minute video in which students presented an action plan to address a social problem experienced by a marginalized community. Video-making was chosen because it comports with basic community development principles of building individual and collective capital. Study aims were to explore students’ experiences with their video project; assess the perceived impact of the video project on students' knowledge of course content and social work practice; and identify strategies for improving student-generated video projects.

Methods: For this exploratory study, all former students who took the course during the three years it was taught (i.e., fall of 2008-2010) were recruited; 80% (n=37) participated. Mean age was 28. The majority was female (84%), White (78%), and employed (92%). Data were gathered in February 2012 using an online survey consisting of closed- and open-ended questions. Data analysis included descriptive statistics and qualitative coding techniques. Categories and subcategories were compared and refined according to Grounded Theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2007). To increase trustworthiness, each author independently coded responses and data were triangulated with student evaluations and instructor notes.

Results: The majority (65%) of participants remembered all or most of their video’s content. Almost all (90%) interviewed at least one community member or professional. Almost all (90%) showed it to at least one person, including family/friends (81%), interviewees (54%), and co-workers (43%). Nearly half reported the video as very impactful on their knowledge during the course, and the majority reported it as moderately (34.3%) or very (25.7%) impactful on their knowledge after the course. Qualitative responses regarding why it was impactful included  “doing” versus reading, connecting with people, stepping beyond one’s comfort zone, learning new skills, and creating a mobilizing tool. Only 19% created videos in their current work (barriers included insufficient time and resources); however, half reported being moderately likely to use it in future practice. Three-fourths were very likely to recommend video-making to instructors. Participants discussed the logistical difficulties and time-consuming nature of the project as areas for improvement.

Conclusions and Implications: This study provides important preliminary evidence to suggest that student-generated videos are a useful teaching strategy. Instructors should take note that, for community development courses, videos may be more beneficial than written assignments because students appreciate connecting to the material through experience and build relevant skills not gained elsewhere. Moreover, videos have a unique diffusion factor (i.e., sharing beyond the classroom). Best said by a participant, “As time-consuming and labor-intensive as it was, the video project was one of the better (if not the best) learning experiences I had in social work school.”