The typical introductory physics lecture requires students to consolidate and assimilate a large quantity of complex information that is often novel to them. This can leave students overwhelmed, slow the pace of their learning, and lower their motivation. We find that carefully designed multimedia summaries in the form of one-minute videos and short text summaries can significantly increase students’ understanding of the material as well as their ability to organize information into a useful mental framework, as measured by their performances on a concept mapping exercise and a conceptual test of learning. Notably, we show that these improvements can be achieved with negligible increase in overall time students spend on the course material each week. We discuss reasons why these short postlecture summaries helped students learn more, namely, that (i) they likely increased students’ ability to chunk and organize information while minimizing the extraneous cognitive load imposed by the materials, and (ii) they likely improved students’ ability to consolidate and transfer knowledge through the use of contrasting cases. We provide a set of detailed recommendations that instructors can use to develop effective postlecture multimedia summaries. We suggest that one of the most important and impactful recommendations is incorporating student thinking in the design of these types of summaries informed by the input of qualified former students or teaching assistants with significant experience interacting with students in the course.
We show how learning can be improved, beyond that shown in actively taught classrooms, by also transforming the homework using the principles of deliberate practice. We measure the impact of transforming the homework on student learning in a course that had already implemented an active approach to teaching in class. We compare performance on the same final exam in equivalent cohorts of students over three semesters of an introductory physics course: the first taught with traditional lectures and traditional homework, the second taught with active instruction coupled with traditional homework, and the last taught with both active instruction and transformed homework. We find students in the semester where both active teaching and transformed homework are used scored significantly higher on the final exam than the students taught actively but with traditional homework. This learning gain achieved by transforming the homework is comparable to that achieved by replacing traditional lectures with active teaching strategies in class. We further show the positive effects of transforming the homework on student learning through a shorter, controlled experiment. When everything but the homework implementation is controlled, students scored 5%–10% higher on a test of learning following transformed homework compared with traditional homework. This significant improvement to learning occurs despite students spending a similar amount of time on task. This study represents an initial step towards understanding how deliberate practice can be extended to improve pedagogy beyond what happens in the classroom to the out-of-class homework.
Nearly every introductory physics or chemistry course includes live lecture demonstrations, which can range from simple illustrations of a pendulum to elaborate productions with specialized apparatus and highly trained demonstrators. Students and instructors often consider “demos” to be among the highlights of these classes. Yet, in some situations demos may be cumbersome, inaccessible, or otherwise unavailable, and online video demos could offer a convenient alternative. We compared the effectiveness of live demonstrations with online videos under controlled conditions in the first semester of an introductory physics (mechanics) course. Students were randomly assigned to view either a live or video version of two demos. The same instructor presented both versions of the demo using an identical script, keeping the same time on task across both conditions, but with small differences in presentation appropriate to the medium. Compared with the students who saw the live demos, the students who watched the online videos learned more, and their self-reported enjoyment was just as high. We discuss reasons why videos helped students to learn more, including that they are more likely to make correct observations from the video. These results suggest that videos could provide students with an equally effective learning experience when live demos are unavailable. Indeed, even when live demonstrations are available, it may be beneficial to supplement them with online presentations.