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.