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Do Video Lessons Reinforce Learning, or Just Reinforce Pre-existing (Incorrect) Understanding?

by Kelly Walsh on March 20, 2014


What Goes on in a Student’s Mind as They Watch an Instructional Video may be Different Than you Think!

Have you ever shown a video to a classroom of students and heard one or more of them say, “I already know this stuff”? While the video plays, these students are likely to daydream, surf their phones, doodle, or otherwise fail to pay attention and learn. Worse yet, if they have a certain perception of how something works and this is corrected in the video, not only are they not too likely to pick up on it, but they may actually come away from the experience thinking their perception was validated. The same thing can happen when they watch videos on their own as part of assigned work outside of class.

While preparing the first “Premium Members’ Video Round Up” (more on that below), one of the videos I selected offered powerful insights into who students learn, or don’t really learn, when watching some videos. I was fascinated by this, and I’ll bet many readers may be as well.

In this video (embedded above, and available here on YouTube) Derek Muller discusses his doctoral thesis, bringing a fresh perspective to the hows and whys of videos as teaching and learning tool – what works and what doesn’t. Per the description of the video in YouTube:

“It is a common view that “if only someone could break this down and explain it clearly enough, more students would understand.” Khan Academy is a great example of this approach with its clear, concise videos on science. However it is debatable whether they really work. Research has shown that these types of videos may be positively received by students. They feel like they are learning and become more confident in their answers, but tests reveal they haven’t learned anything. The apparent reason for the discrepancy is misconceptions. Students have existing ideas about scientific phenomena before viewing a video. If the video presents scientific concepts in a clear, well illustrated way, students believe they are learning but they do not engage with the media on a deep enough level to realize that what was is presented differs from their prior knowledge. There is hope, however. Presenting students’ common misconceptions in a video alongside the scientific concepts has been shown to increase learning by increasing the amount of mental effort students expend while watching it.”

So, if you are creating your own videos, or otherwise using video in the classroom, you would do well to start with a focus on common misconceptions, to open students’ eyes and increase the likelihood that they are going to pay attention and actually learn something. What a simple but powerful concept.

(And as for the “Premium Members’ Video Round Up” – we’re preparing to launch Premium Memberships here on EmergingEdTech … keep your eyes open for the announcement before the end of the month!).

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Can the Inspiration for Learning be Captured and Empowered Through Technology?
The Most Important Thing to Know to Prevent Technology Problems During a Lecture
How to Protect Students While Integrating Social Media in Classroom Instruction and Assignments



Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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