Research description

All five teacher-researchers completed our institution's Institutional Review Board training, and we distributed a two-page Informed Consent document on the day the assignment was introduced. The document explained our research to our students, and it asked them to sign and return the document if they would be willing to participate in the study. We received only 70 signed Informed Consent documents out of a possible 207; we think some students might have thought that they would not have to follow the fair use guidelines if they did not sign the Informed Consent. Despite the low return rate, we did not want to pressure or pursue students, in accordance with our own guidelines to keep the research non-intrusive; participation in the study could not result in a reward for students, nor did we want students to think that non-participation would result in some form of punishment or grade reduction.

We distributed hard copies of a pre-assignment and post-assignment survey to those willing to participate, although we have not drawn from those surveys as extensively as we initially planned. We each compiled the survey results from our own sections of English 110, and then shared those results on our project wiki. The survey results give us the big picture: what kinds of videos students produced, how they handled the music, what they heard in the music, their experience using music in other projects, their time commitment to this project, their composing processes, their use of models, their knowledge of copyright, what they learned about writing from composing a video, what they learned in general, and their overall recommendation for us.

Each teacher-researcher identified three students from his/her class who might be willing to participate in a 30-minute follow-up interview; we identified students who showed a range of commitment and interest in the assignment, rather than just interview the students who really excelled on the assignment. Of the 15 we invited to be interviewed, 11 made arrangements to meet with us and follow through. We also made sure that we did not interview our own students, giving students (we hoped) an opportunity to speak more freely about their frustrations, concerns, and problems with the assignment. We transcribed the interviews and shared them with each other after the semester was completed. The interviews gave us a more detailed look into the composing process of 11 students, the kind of intellectual and technical challenge some students saw in the assignment, the stories behind some of these videos, what they have done with their products, and what some students intend to do with their new skills. The interviews were able to give us a clearer sense of what students heard in the music they chose than any of the survey questions we had asked, so we have drawn extensively on those interviews and minimally on the surveys. We ended up not using the video of one student who was interviewed, and we ended up including two videos from students who were not interviewed, hence the totals we report in the abstract: 10 students interviewed, 12 videos analyzed closely.

We collectively viewed sample videos to get a sense of what students outside of our classes did with the assignment, and we also used these common viewings to help us agree on categorizations for the videos. In synthesizing and shaping the results we report on and analyze, we have not simply reported what students told us in their interviews; we have also interpreted and made some judgments about the degree of difficulty and level of execution in videos. We have tried to limit those kinds of assessments, but we also have to acknowledge that our hermeneutic strategies are not neutral. Our answers to the questions, "What do students hear in a song, and how do they apply that knowledge in their videos?" are derived from what we think is a productive mix of student reflection through surveys and interviews, and teacher-researcher analysis of final products based on extensive viewings of 200 videos, and intensive viewing of 12.