Interactive Video Vignettes: a tool for teaching and insight into student thinking
Research shows that the best way to teach science is through active learning, and there have been numerous calls for reform. However, it is difficult for an instructor to redesign an entire course to incorporate evidence-based pedagogies. Plus, in an effort to increase depth of coverage, instructors may struggle to decide which of the plethora of topics and concepts to focus on, particularly in a broad, foundational course such as Introductory Biology. Without easy-to-incorporate research-based pedagogical tools, many instructors may simply abandon the idea of trying to create a more student-centered, active engagement, classroom.
We are developing a set of high-quality online educational materials that promote active, hands-on science learning to aid in teaching of core concepts for introductory biology at the college level. In addition to the creation and dissemination of new materials, we are testing them with undergraduates to determine their effectiveness. Detailed analyses of these results allows us to refine the materials, to create appropriate assessments of learning, and to inform instructors of common areas of confusion that can be followed up through additional activities and discussions. Through our analysis we are also able to gain deeper insight into student thinking about these core concepts and expand our biology education research into new areas of investigation.
The team from Rochester Institute of Technology and Alfred University plan to disseminate 14 Modules for INteractive Teaching (MINTs), each of which is grounded in an interactive video vignette (IVV) that is completed online by students prior to class. IVVs use principles of cognitive learning theories such as elicit-confront-resolve and constructivism to support deep learning of core concepts in biology. Unlike the vast majority of videos made for teaching biology, IVVs are live action, require active participation of the user, and embed him/her in a real-life scenario that requires them to help solve biological problems.
Seven IVVs have been produced, each of which is currently undergoing classroom evaluation. At one institution, we are conducting a case/control study of three IVVs, involving 85 students enrolled in an introductory biology course, where each student is assigned to do two of the IVVs and to act as a control for the other. At another institution, we have assigned all seven of the IVVs to all 111 students in order to investigate how their ideas change after exposure to the IVVs. Pre/post testing is conducted using multiple-select format assessment, which has the potential to more accurately characterize student mental models than forced choice or short answer questions do. Deep analysis of the choices students make reveals which parts of the IVVs are most effective and where incorrect ideas persist.
The materials developed as part of this project will impact biology students across the country, both directly (by providing them with tools to promote deep learning) and indirectly (by providing biology education researchers with new sources of data that will be used to improve education). Using research-based methods of development ensures the quality of the materials so that their effectiveness is maximized. In addition, the investigation into student thinking is opening new avenues of research for future work.
Production of each vignette takes longer than expected, and new technical challenges come up with every vignette as their sophistication increased. We have budgeted more time to the process.