October 2, 2011

What does it take to make educational videos work?

Derek Muller is the founder of an online video education project in Physics called Veritasium. In his PhD thesis “How to create films to teach science (specifically physics)” he wrote about whether or how students in science can actually learn something from educational videos. This video shows what he has learned: Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos. He did an experiment in which he gave participants to the study a pretest, then showed them a video giving the correct information on the topics which were tested, and then tested them again. Surprisingly enough, although the participants found the videos clear, concise and easy to understand and were rather confident about having done the posttest better than the pretest ... they did not do better at all on the post test.

Briefly, Muller found out that, in science education videos, directly presenting the correct information does not work well. Five things happen when you do that:
  1. Students think they already know it
  2. They don't pay utmost attention
  3. They don't recognize that what was presented differs from what they were already thinking
  4. They don't learn a thing
  5. They get more confident in the ideas they were thinking before. 
In a second experiment he started his educational videos by first having an actor giving a false explanation which corresponded with the most common misconceptions about the science topics. After that the correct information was given. Now, the participants who had watched the videos said they found them confusing. They had paid more attention to the videos. Their performance on the post test nearly doubled. 

This is interesting stuff for thought. Does this apply to educational videos only or also to written text and education in the class room? Does it apply to science education specifically or also to, for example, social science? (I believe it does, many people have a great deal of incorrect preconceptions about social science as well). 

What do you think? Interesting?

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