Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

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What’s the Eberly Center reading and thinking about this month?

The Research and Scholarship Digest, published the first Monday of each month, consists of short summaries of recently peer-reviewed studies on teaching and learning topics. This digest offers a view into what we are reading and thinking about at the Eberly Center that:

• adds to our understanding of how students learn
• is potentially generalizable across teaching contexts in higher education
• provokes reflection on implications for our teaching and educational development practices.

We hope the readers of this digest will find it a useful resource for staying in-tune with the rapidly expanding education research literature.

February 2022

Collaborative learning in sociology research methods courses: Does race matter?

This study examined the effect of lecture vs. collaborative-based learning on student learning by race in a Sociology course on Research Methods. Students enrolled in a lecture-based course (n = 76), in which the majority of class time was structured around a lecture with occasional questions for students, or a collaborative-based course (n = 51), in which students read material before class and then completed collaborative activities to apply course material in groups. Students took a pre- and post-test, consisting of 13 multiple choice questions, seven short answer, and one essay question about research methods. Although there were no significant overall differences between pre and post-tests in the lecture vs. collaborative-based courses, there was a difference in African American students' performance between course types. Controlling for socio-demographic information, gender, parental education, and employment status, regression models indicated that African American students' predicted post-test scores were 22 percentage points lower compared to White students in the lecture-based course, yet this difference did not appear in the collaborative-based learning course. While further research is needed to better understand the effects of collaborative learning based on race, this study suggests that collaborative-based learning has the potential to close the gap in student performance in higher education. 

Morris, P., Ida, A. K., Migliaccio, T., Tsukada, Y.,  & Baker, D. (2020). Teaching Sociology, 48(4), 300–312. 

[link to article]

Learning in double time: The effect of lecture video speed on immediate and delayed comprehension

Is watching lecture videos at an increased speed effective for learning? In three experiments, the authors had participants watch lecture videos at 1x, 1.5x, 2x, and 2.5x speed, followed by immediate and delayed comprehension tests. When it came to watching a video one time at a particular speed, results showed that learning was not significantly different depending on whether the participant watched at 1x, 1.5x, or 2x speed, but performance did decline while watching at 2.5x speed. After watching each video and before taking a test, participants were asked to predict how well they would do on the tests, and the video speed did not have an effect on these predictions. In a second experiment, the authors tested whether watching the same video twice (back to back) at 2x speed would lead to more or less learning than watching it once at 1x speed (i.e., time on task was identical). In this case, participants who only watched the video one time at 1x speed had higher expectations of performance than participants who watched twice at 2x speed, but there were no differences in their actual performance. When the participants who watched twice at 2x speed were able to space out their viewings, however, watching the video for the second time right before the test, they did perform better than individuals who only watched once at 1x speed. This finding is consistent with research on the spacing effect. Overall these results suggest that (for videos featuring around 150 words per minute at 1x), watching lecture videos at up to 2x speed does not incur a significant cost when it comes to comprehension of the content.

Murphy, D. H., Hoover, K. M., Agadzhanyan, K., Kuehn, J. C., & Castel, A. D. (2022). Applied Cognitive Psychology, 36(1), 69-82.
[link to article]

Up close and personal: Examining effects of instructor video presence on student’s sense of connection

Students' sense of connection with instructors is something that has been of concern since the shift to a mostly remote learning environment, where recorded lecture videos are a frequent course medium. Even as in-person learning comes back into the fold, the use of recorded lecture videos is an element from the shift to remote learning that may be retained in some capacity for many instructors. The authors of this paper conducted two studies in which they had students watch a segment of an introductory psychology lecture that was recorded in different ways. Students either watched the lecture recorded with the instructor looking at and speaking directly into the camera, from a more distant vantage point of the camera embedded in the lecture hall (instructor present but not speaking into the camera), or a clip with audio only. After watching the lecture video, students were asked to complete several measures, including the overall likeability of and likelihood of certain behaviors from that instructor (e.g., this instructor would invite students to call or meet outside of class if they have questions or want to discuss something), perceptions of the instructor’s knowledge, and questions about how the students would feel in that class (e.g., connection to and comfort with the instructor). Results showed that, when compared to the lecture hall video and audio-only clip, students who watched the eye-contact video rated the instructor as more likable and more likely to engage in a series of positive behaviors, but did not perceive the instructor as more knowledgeable. In addition, students who watched the eye-contact video reported being more likely to have a series of positive feelings in that class, including feeling connected to the instructor and feeling comfortable raising their hand. Interestingly, the lecture hall video where the instructor was present (but not speaking into the camera) did not show advantages in these measures when compared to the audio only group. These results suggest that being able to view the instructor’s eyes and facial expressions up close in lecture videos may be beneficial for facilitating a positive learning experience for students.

Wong, M., Marshall, L. M., Blank, H. C., & Hard, B. M. (2021). Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology
[link to article]

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