Are Videos That Include the Teacher More Effective
As recent events have forced more online instruction, many teachers have sought to find out the best way to retain the attention and interest of students through lecture videos or Zoom sessions. In the meantime, a more clinical approach was taken by learning scientists, using experiments to test the question: How important is it for the teacher to be visible on the screen?
Several research projects by researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara are testing what is known as the “embodied teaching theory,” which claims that learners look at the body of the teacher for signs on where and what is necessary to concentrate attention. The researchers argue that it is important for students to be able to see the face of the instructor when educators make instructional videos, and especially to see their eyes and where they are looking.
When instructors create videos where they use their presence in the video well, the researchers argue in a recent peer-reviewed paper, it can “contribute to greater engagement, promote generative learning, direct efficient integration of the instructional material, and lead to better post-test performance.”
Benefits of Including the Teaching in Your Training Video
The instructor must be included in multimedia instruction. Teachers guide the learner on how to move through a lesson when it’s done well, optimizing their focus and attention to where it’s supposed to be. It’s almost like this symphony, the heart of which is the instructor.
But it turns out that it isn’t always an advantage to just have a professor’s face on the computer.
This is what researchers learned in a recent study in which four separate iterations of a 30-minute lecture on human kidney anatomy were created by a professor. They used a transparent whiteboard for certain iterations of the film, a high-tech set-up where the professor stands behind a sheet of glass and draws with markers, and the camera reverses the picture so it looks right to the viewer. Instead of the teacher needing to turn away from students to compose, the idea is that students would still see the face of the educator, and the theory was that the instrument can contribute to greater student participation.
The Downside of Having the Teaching in a Training Video
The teacher wrote on a traditional whiteboard in one iteration of the video and never looked at the audience; in another, the teacher wrote on a regular whiteboard and switched back and forth between looking at the board and the audience; in another, the teacher wrote on the translucent whiteboard and often looked at the audience when writing; and in the third, the teacher used a transparent
But when the teacher looked at the camera, students reported greater engagement than when they did not, the transparent whiteboard wasn’t always the most successful. Stull says it seems like it may have drawn attention away from the words and sketches on the translucent whiteboard to see the teacher’s face all the time. Stull says, “The face is a massive draw; it is a magnet for attention.” “You’re going to spend a lot more time looking at their faces, so this is likely to create split attention.”
That’s not to suggest that there’s an inadequate translucent whiteboard. The finding, Stull says, shows that during every video lesson, instructors must think carefully about where they are focusing their attention, no matter what instruments they use.
“This is a complicated issue,” he says. “It is important for the instructor to deliberately choreograph the experience and to be aware of how students can use their body signals to analyze and process the words and diagrams and drawings and engage with them.”
To see how to better apply their principle of embodied instruction in real-world classrooms, the researchers will do further experiments. In their laboratory, they have a saying that “research is like a painting by pointillists,” Stull says. “Each paper is just a dot, and you start to see what is happening when you have enough dots on the page.”