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The Use of Video Vignettes in RCR Training

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/uploadedImages/PSI/Blog/University_of_Alabama_at_Birmingham.jpgOne of the most innovative approaches to teaching ethical deliberation and the responsible conduct of research (RCR) is the use of video vignettes. If properly contextualized in a classroom or an online tutorial, videos can have unique “interactive” possibilities. Students and faculty can actively engage with questions and dilemmas commonly encountered in research settings or in the advising relationship. They can imagine different scenarios and the potential ramifications of different kinds of decisions, or they can picture themselves in the shoes of other students or faculty members who may be engaged in making bad choices or ethically questionable decisions.

Some sample video vignettes as well as their contextual materials are accessible at the following website of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB):

The website first presents students with a situation that can easily lead to ethical missteps, and asks them to reflect about their own experiences. Students are then invited to watch a short video sequence in which characters confront, and make ethical decisions about, the situation and its consequences. Throughout the segment, students are asked to provide short observations about the characters in the video and to articulate their suggestions for how best to resolve their “real-world” dilemmas.

Video resources have prompted researchers and educators to consider the importance of interactive pedagogies and modes of delivery for teaching ethical deliberation and the responsible conduct of research. Some of the most interesting questions raises by such resources include:

• What is the effect of training resources that require student input? How are such materials different from those that simply provide students with information or guidelines about the responsible conduct of research?

• Is there special value in resources that “tell a story” about characters facing a difficult ethical situation in research or scholarship? Do these resources prompt student—and faculty—to respond differently to ethical issues than they do when they encounter information and materials that are not based on hypothetical or real-life cases?

• What are the “learning outcomes” of RCR modules involving interactive technology? How might educators describe the goals of such learning modules? How might their actual outcomes be assessed?

• Is there added value to using technology in the teaching of RCR and ethical deliberation?

While online and video resources are only one small part of a comprehensive RCR or scholarly integrity program in graduate education, there is a wide variety of such “interactive” materials available for direct implementation in RCR education or for adaptation to research ethics education at the graduate level. A number of the most recently developed approaches, including the approach used at UAB, were presented at an RCR Workshop at the Annual Meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools. The presentations of the RCR Workshop are summarized below by Jeffrey Engler, with links to some of the accompanying materials.

Please feel free to post a comment on any of these approaches or on other resources in RCR education.

Summary of RCR workshop held December 3, 2008 at CGS Annual Meeting

This workshop focused on the development of use of video vignettes and case studies as resources to educate graduate students about scholarly integrity and responsible conduct of research.

Dr. Elizabeth Holmes, faculty member in the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the US Naval Academy, demonstrated a video approach to ethics education, organized as interactive simulations to engage students in scenarios to identify how choices made during the simulation can lead to good and bad outcomes. The simulations lead students through a series of instructional stages, including moral awareness, moral judgment, moral intention, and moral action. These simulations are linked to values and strategic imperatives espoused by the US Naval Academy and build leadership skills and responsibilities among the midshipmen. The home page for the Stockdale Center is where the simulation “Last Call” is available for download.

Dr. Lee Williams, Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma, described research in the psychology of teaching ethical concepts. Faculty and graduate students in the Department of Psychology developed an ethical decision model based on research into the taxonomy of ethical behavior and the individual and situational influences to such behavior. Unlike traditional approaches, this research recognized that complex work and ethical problems involve professional, social and ethical consequences. The rationale of the pedagogic approach is that students need decision-making strategies to promote ethical behavior. To implement this goal, a two-day seminar with 10 modules has been developed to promote ethical decision making, with post-seminar evaluation of effectiveness. Faculty and student satisfaction with the content of this seminar has resulted in substantial acceptance and demand for expanding this approach.

Dr. Jeffrey Engler, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the UAB Graduate School, described strategies to engage faculty and students in a continuing discussion of scholarly integrity issues. Based on these small group discussions, two video vignettes (“Amanda’s Dilemma”; “Whistle Blower”) have been created for online web education ( These videos have been organized in the “Query – Video Presentation – Query” format developed by Dr. Sara Vollmer at UAB; each segment of the presentation provides an engaging initial question, followed by a short video segment, and then a second question to allow further deeper reflection. “Amanda’s Dilemma” has also been incorporated into a one-hour workshop, in which small groups of graduate students discuss the issues involved in and strategies for avoiding plagiarism; a brochure summarizing the content of the workshop can be downloaded at This workshop has been presented to more that 400 graduate and undergraduate students; post-workshop assessments show that these interactive sessions have been highly effective. Dr. Engler’s presentation can be found at:

Dr. Paul Braunschweiger, co-founder of the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI), described video vignettes prepared at the University of Nebraska and the use of web-based materials to train students and faculty in areas of responsible conduct of research. Dr. Braunschweiger discussed the relative merits of web-based instruction, including ease of use, availability of materials 24/7, and high user satisfaction. CITI has invested substantial effort to measure the efficacy of their online instructional materials. CITI currently offers 8 web-based modules with more becoming available in the next year. Many of these modules incorporate video vignettes (such as those from the University of Nebraska) to stimulate engagement and other interactive materials to enrich the student training experience. The web site for the CITI program can be found at

Jeffrey Engler
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Posted by Application Administrator at 03/10/2009 02:21:57 PM | 

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