Research Basis for the Schlessinger Media Programs
Grades K-12


By John Cradler, Molly Freeman & Ruthmary Cradler of Educational Support Systems


No Child Left Behind Stimulates the Demand for Providing a Research Basis for Video in the Classroom:  Education policy and decision-makers have frequently raised the question of whether the use of video as an instructional tool improves learning in the classroom. Although this issue has always been important to educators, the question takes on an even greater significance as schools grapple with high-stakes assessments and compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Because of this mandate, Schlessinger Media and SAFARI Video Networks have taken this opportunity to compile existing scientific research that demonstrates a link between the use of Schlessinger Media video through SAFARI Video Networks as a teaching tool and improved learning. This paper identifies the design and content features of video applications used by Schlessinger Media that have the greatest probability of improving motivations and learning for the intended audience. The paper begins by addressing a few of the many studies on the impact and use of instructional video. This is followed by a summary of the research findings related to each of the design features of the Schlessinger Media instructional video programs.

The No Child Left Behind Act, enacted in 2001, mandates that any educational initiatives funded by federal NCLB dollars must be scientifically proven to increase learning. Currently, these federal funds, worth $22 billion, are distributed to states and local education agencies either through formula fund grants (for example, Title I) or competitive federal grants. In order to qualify for federal NCLB dollars, applicants must demonstrate with "scientifically-based research" that the educational initiative to be funded by the grant improves learning. Educators must provide evidence that educational initiatives, or interventions, are proven effective and increase learning.


Research Support for Instructional Video: There is substantial research promoting the use of video in the classroom as a dynamic resource for supporting curricula. According to a recent teacher survey, 94% of classroom teachers had effectively used video during the course of an academic year. And most teachers were using it frequently — on average, once per week (Griffin, 2005).

There have been numerous studies conducted about the use of multimedia (including film, instructional television and video) to enhance learning. A recent summary of studies provides examples of how television and multimedia support and enhance learning (Marshall, 2002).

  • Watching the television program Blue's Clues has strong effects on developing preschool viewers' flexible thinking, problem solving and prosocial behaviors. (Bryant,1998)
  • Court TV's Choices and Consequences program reduced middle school students' verbal aggression, including tendencies to tease, swear and argue with others. (Wilson, 1999)
  • Viewing Sesame Street was positively associated with subsequent performance in reading, mathematics, vocabulary and student readiness. (Wright, 2001)
  • A "recontact" study with a sample of 15- to 20-year-olds found that those who had been frequent viewers of Sesame Street at age 5 had significantly better grades in English, science and mathematics; read more books for pleasure; and had a higher motivation to achieve. (Huston, 2001)

A study conducted by the Teacher's College at Columbia University and WNET designed to determine the impact of Instructional Television (ITV) on students' learning over a six-week period concluded that ITV-using students:

  • Outperformed non-ITV students on tests.
  • Scored higher on writing assignments.
  • Used more figurative language than non-ITV students.
  • Applied more varied and creative approaches to problem solving.
  • Were more active in classroom discussions.
  • Learn better when more ITV is used. (Barnes, 1997)

In a series of studies conducted by the Children's Television Workshop (CTW) on their series 3-2-1 Contact and Square One TV, the overlying conclusion was that the children involved in the study not only had an improved ability to recall facts and showed improved problem-solving performance, but their overall interest in math and science had increased after exposure to the programming. (Children's, 1990)

In August 1995, TVOntario published the findings of three teacher surveys regarding the use of instructional television and video in the classroom. The overwhelming majority of the teachers in the survey concluded that the programs:

  • Help students learn new information;
  • Spark student interest;
  • Help students understand concepts;
  • Encourage classroom instruction. (Stern, 1995)

An independent study examined the impact of The Eddie Files, a series of classroom television programs about mathematics. After viewing episodes from The Eddie Files over a two-month period, the study determined that "students were better able to define concepts covered in the episodes, more likely to give 'correct' answers to content-related questions and better able to list applications of the curriculum topics which had been addressed." (Skolnik, 1996)


Research Supporting the Design and Features of Schlessinger Media: The above provided a few examples of how video can improve teaching and learning. The remainder of this paper will focus on existing research that supports design and major features incorporated into instructional video produced by Schlessinger Media. While reviewing the many studies that show video to be an effective instructional resource, a list of specific features emerged relating to the video that contributes to measurable impact. These range from the appropriateness of content to the intended audience to the process for integrating the programs into instruction. As the following analysis shows, Schlessinger Media has consciously considered these factors in the development of the over 1,000 video programs focusing on K-8 as well as 9-12 education. Following a brief introduction to Schlessinger Media is a statement of the specific research-based features that went into the design, production and dissemination of Schlessinger Media programs.



About Schlessinger Media
Schlessinger Media is the programming division of Library Video Company. Founded in 1990, Schlessinger Media distributes a library of over 1,000 originally produced and licensed educational videos. All Schlessinger Media programming is created to support and enhance nationwide curricula with an emphasis on science, social studies, language arts and math. The programs are reported to have been developed by a team of educators, nationally recognized consultants and series experts. The company lists the following as critical features:

  1. Programs are produced for teachers, not TV, and therefore have a clear pedagogical mission.
  2. Running time is 23 minutes...perfectly timed for the classroom.
  3. Most programs are produced in short segments so that the entire 23 minutes can be used or teachers can show it in shorter segments as necessary for the lesson.
  4. Programs are educational and entertaining for the grade range and are of high production quality.
  5. Teacher's Guides that include: 1) a summary of the program, 2) a variety of assessment tools, 3) pre-viewing questions, 4) follow-up questions, 5) related vocabulary and 6) Internet and other relevant resources. Teacher' s Guides are free and downloadable online.
  6. Videos are produced to correlate to the state, regional and national standards.
  7. Three-minute video clips are available online for previewing programs.
  8. Schlessinger Media titles receive excellent qualitative reviews and awards from other organizations.
  9. The programs are all reported to be of the highest production quality possible.

A.  Schlessinger Media Multimedia Design Features With Supporting Research: Research supports the following features that have been incorporated into instructional video contained in the Schlessinger Media collection. The following statements are identified by ESS (and confirmed by Schlessinger Media) to represent features incorporated into Schlessinger Media instructional videos. Each statement is followed by the research supporting the stated feature.

  1. Presentation of information is segmented so learners can select, organize and integrate the selected words and images, and students and/or teachers can stop the program at any point to explore ideas.
    • Students who received segmented presentations containing one or two sentences and 8 to 10 seconds of animation performed better on subsequent tests of problem-solving transfer than did students who received a continuous presentation. The effect size in one study was 1.36. (Mayer and Chandler, 2001).
    • Segmentation supports interactivity and the latter makes it easy for students to revisit specific parts of the learning environment to explore and test ideas and to receive feedback. (Barron et al., 1998; Crews et al., 1997); (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997); (Vye et al., 1998)
  2. The multimedia presentation combines narration with animation to support cognitive (mental) processing of images and words.
    • Students performed better on tests of problem-solving transfer when scientific explanations were presented as animation and narration rather than as animation and on-screen text. Median effect size was 1.17. (Mayer & Moreno, Experiments 1 & 2 1998, 1999 Experiments 1 and 2); (Moreno, Mayer, Spires, & Lester 2001 Experiments 4 and 5)
  3. Narrated animation is concise and coherent, with no extraneous material such as narrated animation with music or short narrated video clips showing irrelevant material, so students are able to focus on essential information.
    • Students performed better on problem-solving transfer tests after receiving a concise narrated animation than an embellished narrated animation. The median effect size was .90. The result is referred to as the coherence effect. (Mayer, Heiser, & Lonn, 2001, Experiments 1, 3, 4); (Moreno & Mayer, 2000, Experiments 1 and 2).
  4. Signals provide cues for learners to select and organize relevant information that is conveyed through words and images.
    • Students who received a signaled version that guided the learner's selection and organization of words and images performed better on a subsequent problem-solving transfer than did students who received the unsignaled version. The effect size was .74. The result is referred to as the signaling effect. (Mautone & Mayer 2001), (Experiment 3); (Lorch, 1989), Meyer, 1975).
  5. Printed words are placed near corresponding portions of the animation so students do not have to scan the screen.
    • Students who learned from aligned or integrated presentations (consisting of animation with integrated on-screen text) performed better on a problem-solving transfer test than did students who learned from separated presentations (consisting of animation with separated on-screen text). The effect size was .48. Similar effects have been found with text and illustrations in books (Mayer, 2001). The result is referred to as the spatial contiguity effect (Mayer, 2001).
  6. Built-in opportunities for review and assessment of content introduced in each video program increase the probability of knowledge acquisition and application.
    • Research has consistently shown the probability that students increase knowledge and skills as a result of using instructional multimedia and video when they receive feedback on what they have learned through the use of built-in assessments (Coley, Cradler, & Engel, 1998).
  7. Through the use of key vocabulary on screen and closed-captioning, narration can be presented concurrently with on-screen text.
    • When there is no animation, students learn better from a presentation of concurrent narration and on-screen text (i.e., verbal redundancy) than from a narration-only presentation. (Moreno & Mayer, 2002, Experiments 1 and 3).
  8. Corresponding visual and auditory material are synchronized so learners do not have to recall the information presented in one form as information is presented in the second form.
    • Students performed better on problem-solving transfer tests when they learned from simultaneous presentations (i.e., presenting corresponding animation and narration at the same time) than from successive presentations (i.e., presenting the complete animation before or after the complete narration). (p. 50) The median effect size was 1.30. The result is referred to as the temporal contiguity effect (Mayer and Anderson, 1991, Experiments 1 and 2a); (Mayer & Anderson, 1992, Experiments 1 and 2);(Mayer, Moreno, Boire, & Vagge, Experiments 1 and 2); (Myer & Sims, 1994, Experiments 1 and 2)
  9. Lesson profiles enable teachers to match multimedia products with the learning characteristics of various student populations, thereby individualizing the use of the multimedia lessons.
    • High-spatial learners performed much better on problem-solving transfer tests from simultaneous presentations than from successive presentations, whereas low-spatial learners performed at the same low level for both. Among two experiments involving a narrated animation on how the human respiratory system works, the median effect was 1.13. This result is referred to as the spatial ability effect. (Mayer and Sims, 1994, Experiments 1 and 2);
  10. Reviews by professional associations and journals regarding the treatment of instructional design by Schlessinger Media:
    • Technical quality is excellent...narration is very clear and understandable. (School Library Journal).
    • "...excellent camera work, computer graphics, charts, graphs, and smart young narrator...offers a fast-paced, thorough overview of the stages of life... the excellent program (and its useful accompanying teacher's guide) is highly recommended." (Video Librarian)
    • "Effective voice-over narration supports attractive visuals, which are skillfully edited along with interviews with academics, historians, and family members... These well-organized videos pleasingly portray significant 'Leaders of their generation.'" (Booklist)
    • "The pleasingly modulated narration accompanied by colorful animations and graphics, plus live portrayals of heroic characters contribute to making these both entertaining and enriching." (Children's Video Review)

B.  Schlessinger Media Instructional Video Content Treatment: The following statements are identified by ESS and confirmed by Schlessinger Media to represent treatment of instructional content incorporated into Schlessinger Media instructional videos. Each statement is followed by the research supporting the stated feature.

  • Teacher's guides and online preview clips are intended to facilitate the integration of Schlessinger Media multimedia into classroom instruction to increase relevance of instructional video to ongoing classroom instruction.
    • "...materials are far more likely to be used if teachers can see easily how they connect to their existing classroom curriculum." (Fisch, 2004)
    • "...instructional uses of television were most effective when interwoven into an integrated teaching/learning system in the context of other learning activities." (Chu and Schram, 1967); (cited by Wetzel, 1994).
  • Specific skills in knowledge areas are aligned with multimedia content so teachers can make appropriate product selections for integrating technology with curricula.
    • A survey of 465 teachers in California resulted in 92% affirming that the first step in infusing technology into the curriculum is having information about the specific content of a program or use of an application that aligns with state-adopted curriculum standards. (Cradler & Beuthel, 2001).
  • Science videos are aligned with curriculum to support in-depth understanding of complex concepts and relationships.
    • Educational science videos reinforce and support teachers, particularly at the elementary level where teachers may be uncomfortable with scientific topics. (Education Digest, 1994)
    • Students were more involved in solving the problems presented in news and drama shows with science-related themes and had more post-viewing questions and comments than with magazine or documentary genres. (Dhingra, 2003).
  • Videos for social studies and history bring the subject to life and help students develop a sense of time, place and material culture for a subject.
    • Teachers report that videos with historical themes in the elementary grades contribute to student learning by "recreating images from the past, stimulating interest, attention and motivation through media techniques, stimulating recall of factual information, by enhancing skills and concepts such as listening, demonstrating, and questioning, and by improving children's confidence and teacher's credibility." (Bagel, 1997)

  • Use of video in language arts is a tool for supporting a spectrum of communication skills.
    • A study of second-graders found increased word recognition, comprehension and identification of critical story elements when captions are used with televised media as a supplement to print-based reading instruction. (Linebarger, 2001).
    • Videos enhance learning foreign languages when they dramatize the cultural context and use authentic materials to illustrate the intertwining of language and culture, which is necessary for mastery of another language. (Flood, 1995)
    • DVD technology can accommodate seven different language tracks, which makes it useful in schools where many languages are spoken. (Minkel, 2003).
    • A study of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders with learning disabilities indicated that students had statistically higher word acquisition scores than those in the nonvideo group. (Xin & Reith, 2001)

Reviews by professional associations and journals regarding the treatment of instructional content by Schlessinger Media:

  • "...holds youngster's interest from start to finish...based on curriculum outlined in the National Science Education Standards for Life Science and includes a useful instructional guide." (School Library Journal)
  • "...the value of this exceptional series lies in its direct application to curriculum areas from second to sixth grade..." (School Library Journal)
  • "Helpful timelines, teacher guides, and Web-site references ..." (Booklist)


Next Steps:


Schlessinger Media and SAFARI Video Networks plan to conduct experimental studies on the use of educational video in combination with the SAFARI Video Networks interactive features. The future research will be made available as it is completed.



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