Biology students' perceptions of learning from video exemplars of practical techniques: some lessons for teaching strategies

Stephen Merry, David Skingsley, Paul Mitchell, Paul Orsmond


Video demonstrations are considered a useful way of preparing students for laboratory practicals or fieldwork, but the benefits may be dependent on the type of task and the level of prior understanding. In this study we initially replicate the findings of others in that 62% of student questionnaire respondents found video exemplars of technically complex laboratory practical tasks helpful. This, however, contrasts with the views from student focus groups undertaking ecological sampling techniques utilising relatively simple equipment. In the focus groups it seemed that prior practical experience had a greater impact on learning than the video exemplars. Furthermore, students’ practical concerns were overshadowed by worries of experimental design and data analysis. Our findings suggest video exemplars to be a more effective teaching tool for technically complex procedures. Students’ concerns regarding data handling merit further investigation as they may lead them to choose less challenging third year projects.

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