In advertising and electoral campaigns, it is normal practice: get people in the right mood, either by stimulating their feeling of happiness or by making them anxious, and the commercial or political project is more likely to be successful. In an educational setting, it is not usual to show, for example, a sad film in order to ‘sharpen the mind’. Nevertheless, it is possible to influence pupils with affective videos and, in so doing, achieve educational benefits.
Against a background of the shift from words to images and also to the emotion culture, Ria Verleur has researched ways of applying affective videos in Web-based learning environments. To see how the emotional responses to a video affect our ability to perform a task, she carried out some experiments with students. The presentation variables were: video display (type of media, screen size), video content (has positive or negative effect) and video design (audiovisual design variables).
An insight task showed that watching an unpleasant clip improved performance while a pleasant clip worsened it. However, when experimental subjects were given a divergent-thinking task, their scores were independent of whether or not a certain video clip had put them into a creative mood or mindset. In yet another experiment, students had to evaluate conflict situations in video clips. The design of the video – such things as the frame size (close-ups, long shots) or camera angle – influenced whether the subjects thought the main character in the video clip showed more emotion or less. The video design also affected their evaluation of the second character in the clips, even when the frame size was kept the same for this character.
The educational sector usually follows media trends – just as in daily life – so video screens will become larger (DigiBoard) but also much smaller as in iPod applications, mobile phones and mini TVs. Although these smaller screens appeared to be able to produce affective responses, Verleur’s findings suggest that large screens have more effect than smaller ones.
If affective as well as cognitive elements influence the learning process, then an ethical question arises regarding the means which may be employed to achieve certain educational goals. Ria Verleur does not provide an answer to such important questions in this exploratory investigation, but it is obvious that a relationship between affective processes and learning outcomes does exist. The question now, according to this educational expert at the University of Twente, is how do we recognize and exploit it?
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