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.