Faculty Spotlight: Professor Caroline Marvin on Teaching with Do-It-Yourself Video

by | Oct 24, 2017

Meet Caroline Marvin, Lecturer in Discipline in the Department of Psychology. As a recipient of the Provost’s Hybrid Learning Course Redesign and Delivery award, Professor Marvin received support from the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to redesign her Mind, Brain, and Behavior course by incorporating videos and audience response systems to better engage her students and assess their learning.

Watch the video and read the short Q&A below to hear Marvin reflect on the teaching challenges she faced and the lessons faculty can take away from her experience.

What teaching challenge or problem did you encounter in your course?

The course I’m teaching is Mind, Brain, and Behavior. It’s a large introductory lecture course with about 150 students per semester. The challenge in teaching the course is that students are coming in with very different levels of background knowledge in neuroscience. The course is part of the Neuroscience & Behavior major requirements, so many students are coming in already knowing they want to be Neuroscience majors. They may have a great deal of prior knowledge and may even already be working in neuroscience labs at Columbia. That said, there are no prerequisites for the course, so oftentimes students pursuing other majors and areas of interest take the course because they’re interested in learning about the brain and because this course is a way for them to partially fulfill their science requirements. The goal is to figure out a way to create a meaningful educational experience for both of those groups and for everyone in between.

How did you redesign your course to address this challenge?

On using videos for instruction:

It’s much easier to learn more about a topic once you have some baseline level of knowledge. This prior knowledge gives you a sort of scaffolding to help you further develop your understanding. Working with CTL, we were able to create online videos that introduced some of the key topics and ideas in a particular unit. Students could watch these videos and complete a short quiz on the key material online before class.

The great thing about these videos is that they helped address that challenge of having students coming in with different levels of prior knowledge. Students who were fairly comfortable with, say, the visual system could just quickly watch the video and answer the quiz questions and then have time to explore supplemental materials. For students who were encountering this material for the first time could watch our videos and review that content as often as they needed to really feel comfortable before coming to class. This meant that all students would then be coming into class already having had some exposure to the material we were going to discuss, so we could use class time to build on that knowledge and apply that understanding to new questions and problems.

Do you want to learn more about how using video can improve teaching and learning in your class and how you can get started making these videos? Visit our Teaching with Do-It-Yourself Video online resource to find support, tools, and resources to produce videos on your own for your classes.

On using Audience Response Systems:

As part of this redesign we incorporated an Audience Response System to try to get students more engaged and active in their own learning process. These ARSes are particularly helpful, I think, because they enable all students to participate. Many students may not feel comfortable raising their hand in a large lecture course; the ARS ensures that those students still have a voice and are able to actively participate in class. They’re also very helpful for instructors. Oftentimes, you don’t necessarily know that students don’t understand the material until you see exam scores. And by then it’s too late. Using ARS enables me to see in the moment if I need to revisit a topic or explain something in a new way. It’s also a great way to do demonstrations and other fun activities in class.

What were the lessons learned or take-aways from your experience?

It can seem like a somewhat daunting task to create all these videos and to redesign an entire course. But you can start off small. You can start with a pilot program and maybe make a few videos and see how that changes the way you and your students spend your class time. Small changes can make a real difference. But I would also imagine that once you make a few videos, you’ll realize how beneficial they can be and you’ll end up wanting to make more.

Interested in applying some of the same changes to your own classroom? Reach out to the CTL Learning Designer assigned to your department for help exploring approaches and educational technologies that will fit your needs.