Awesome Free Ed Tech Resources eBook!

  • Nearly 200 Free Applications and hundreds of resources to help you get the most out of them!
  • Tools for interactive collaboration, gamification, OER, mobile learning, & so much more!
  • YOURS FREE just for signing up for blog posts!

Sign Up Now


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 Videos 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.

This video offers powerful insights into how students learn, or don’t really learn, when watching some videos.

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.



Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

Print This Post Print This Post

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Howard Hirshfield April 5, 2014 at 8:17 am

I’ve always wanted to learn French more (I know basic but not fluent) and I have always heard that it’s easiest to learn when you have somebody who knows it well. Plus, if you can convince them to ONLY speak to you in that language, that’s apparently helpful too. So I think the best tips are making friends that speak the language and meet up with people!

mobile games March 27, 2014 at 8:11 am

I believe what you posted was very reasonable. But, consider this, suppose you added a little information?
I ain’t saying your content isn’t good, however what if you
added a post title that makes people want more? I mean Do
Video Lessons Reinforce Learning, or Just Reinforce Pre-existing Incorrect Understanding?
is a little plain. You might look at Yahoo’s home page and note how
they create article titles to get people to click.
You might add a related video or a picture or two to get readers excited about
what you’ve written. Just my opinion, it could bring your
website a little bit more interesting.

Dr. Mark Taormino March 26, 2014 at 1:20 am

This research is very interesting. However, part of any learning exercise is to uncover various points of view, some of which can be misconceptions. This is not an unknown area, and is part of the instructional design process. So I’m a little puzzled how this research is valuable as a standalone concept. No video lesson can really be a complete instructional unit. The need for dialogue and discussion, facilitated by the instructor remains paramount. It doesn’t matter whether the dialogue is classroom or online, but it is an essential part of the instructional process. The Khan Vids are excellent for what they are, but should be part of a much larger instructional landscape. We also have to remember that Sal Khan is not an instructional designer, or educator, so his videos are pretty bare bones. They have great value, but much more value as part of a larger instructional construct.

The other point is that streaming video is not always motivational. Often, it can be the opposite. It’s very difficult to remain focused when passively receiving information, whether a live lecture or video. It is the application of knowledge that spurs the greatest learning gains. This is why we are seeing more and more interactive video tools used in the creation of instructional video. Cost and complexity are big considerations, but that’s another issue.

Using video can also be used by students. Creating ones own content is valuable, as to teach a concept requires a good understanding. Teachers should be looking to use video also not as only a presentation mechanism, but also as a creative mechanism for students to analyze concepts, present work, and demonstrate mastery.

There’s much to be considered when using Video. The passive use of video is perhaps not the best use of the media.

Tom Jackson March 24, 2014 at 6:19 am

Here’s my add to this question . . . when I viewed the clip I found myself thinking, hmmm isn’t the real key to this knowing the students prior level of knowledge? Anything that is presented for students consideration comes with an embedded learning challenge, or not. The key is getting the challenge to interesting an achievable level (Flow, Csikszentmihalyi). Make it too difficult and it achieves learner frustration and disconnect, too easy and boredom and disconnect result. Presentation of ANY learning material, not just video, needs to provide a spark of curiosity and be scaffolded as students navigate the ZPD (Vygotsky).

Peter DeCourcy March 21, 2014 at 4:13 pm

The same thing may be happening in your class but no one is recording it, like in the second video in this series: So is this really about video or about not uncovering misconceptions? Presenting a misconception is one way actually to stimulate curiosity.

Kelly Walsh March 20, 2014 at 6:38 am

Thanks Tamas – here’s the link (you should be able to paste a link directly into a comment without trying to add HTML code – and it will be clickable): I’m looking forward to giving this a read (and what an awesome image at the top of the article – instantly makes me curious!).

Tamas Szakal March 20, 2014 at 4:57 am

A super-important question Kelly, thanks for this post. There’s a great article I came across recently which relates to your question and suggests a great method for maintaining attention. URLs in comments are not allowed but if you google “Want Children to “Pay Attention”? Make Their Brains Curious!” you’ll find it.

Leave a Comment

{ 9 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: