UCL Case Study
How UCL turn first years into real sci­en­tists in just 4 weeks

First year psy­chol­o­gy under­grads at a poster ses­sion. They’re in small groups and pre­sent­ing a small research project that they’ve cre­at­ed and recruit­ed par­tic­i­pants for. They’ve even inter­pret­ed the data that an R script has extract­ed for them.

Oh, and all this has been done in 4 weeks… in the first semes­ter of the first year.

Not pos­si­ble, right?

Wrong. This is the real­i­ty of research meth­ods teach­ing at UCL! By using Gorilla as a teach­ing tool, the incred­i­ble team at UCL are able to give stu­dents a hands on research meth­ods education.

So how does this work? Let’s find out:

Hypoth­e­sis development

Stu­dents are given lec­tures on the implic­it asso­ci­a­tion task (IAT) and implic­it atti­tudes to pro­vide them with the back­ground knowl­edge required to run an IAT experiment.

Using an excel­lent Game of Thrones themed exam­ple, Pro­fes­sor Daniel Richard­son is able to get stu­dents think­ing cre­ative­ly about the kind of hypoth­e­sis they wish to test. For exam­ple, pre­vi­ous stu­dents have cre­at­ed hypothe­ses look­ing at whether there’s an implic­it asso­ci­a­tion between hair colour and per­ceived intel­li­gence, or between tat­toos and per­ceived threat.

Task cre­ation

Once they’ve devel­oped their hypoth­e­sis, each group of stu­dents is tasked with find­ing the stim­uli they want to use and cre­at­ing their exper­i­ment. The stu­dents are pro­vid­ed with a tem­plate of an IAT task in Gorilla, and then walked through how to imple­ment their own stim­uli and ideas.

Gorilla’s intu­itive design makes build­ing exper­i­ments easy. Stu­dents don’t have to spend extra time learn­ing addi­tion­al ele­ments (like cod­ing) to bring their ideas to life. Instead, stu­dents get to focus on think­ing log­i­cal­ly about the research design itself, rather than how to imple­ment it.

Data col­lec­tion

Stu­dents are in charge of their group’s data col­lec­tion. Using Gorilla’s recruit­ment links, stu­dents aim to recruit par­tic­i­pants for each project by shar­ing the link with fam­i­ly and friends — this year they col­lect­ed data from over 2000 par­tic­i­pants in total. The ease of data col­lec­tion for online research is a key influ­ence in why this method of teach­ing works so well!

If each stu­dent had to col­lect data in per­son, this process would take much longer, mean­ing they may not get their own expe­ri­ence of col­lect­ing and analysing their own data in their first year.

Data analy­sis & poster creation

The stu­dents receive a fold­er of their processed data which has been extract­ed for them using a script in R. They’re then are able to work with their groups and sem­i­nar lead­ers to inter­pret their data. Using this data, the stu­dents cre­ate posters to dis­sem­i­nate their find­ings to the rest of their class.

Poster ses­sion

Each year the course organ­is­ers cre­ate a poster ses­sion for the stu­dents to get togeth­er and share their find­ings with each other. Not to be deterred by the pan­dem­ic, this year the ses­sion was held online using Gather.Town, and it was a great success.

Typ­i­cal­ly win­ning posters have been sub­mit­ted to a pro­fes­sion­al research con­fer­ence (and they’ve all been accept­ed!), giv­ing the stu­dents an even greater insight into the real world of research. In fact, one poster actu­al­ly won the best research poster prize at a BPS con­fer­ence, high­light­ing the qual­i­ty of the work being done!

This year we sent one of our team to the poster ses­sion to speak to stu­dents and to see the work being done at UCL. We were incred­i­bly impressed by stu­dents who were con­fi­dent­ly able to dis­cuss their meth­ods and results! In fact, these stu­dents could eas­i­ly have been mis­tak­en for post­grad­u­ate students.

UCL’s teach­ing method allows stu­dents to get their hands on data in 4 weeks

This inno­v­a­tive teach­ing method allows stu­dents to get their hands on data from their own research project in just four weeks. Research meth­ods no longer needs to be a dry topic which stu­dents strug­gle to grasp, it can be fun, inter­ac­tive, and cre­ative. This is an excel­lent way of engag­ing our future lead­ers in sci­ence and help­ing them enjoy the full research process!

At Gorilla we would like to thank Dr Katie Fish­er, Mr Miles Tufft, Dr Jori­na von Zim­mer­mann, Dr Stephanie Laz­zaro, and Pro­fes­sor Daniel Richard­son for the work they have done over the years to organ­ise this course for their students.

If you are inter­est­ed in hear­ing more about teach­ing research meth­ods with Gorilla, check out this case study.