A Documentary Video Assignment to Enhance Learning in Large First-Year Science Classes


  • Louise J. Kuchel The University of Queensland
  • Sarah K. Stevens The University of Queensland
  • Robbie Wilson The University of Queensland
  • John Cokley Swinburne University of Technology


The video documentary assignment described in this paper provides students with learning opportunities in a range of core competencies in biology, framed by and including communication skills. The design, presented as a flow chart to illustrate scaffolding activities, is a culmination of six years of reflective practice and evidence based evaluation (e.g., student perspectives, teacher perspectives and student performance on certain criteria). The assignment forms part of a large (600 student) first year biology course and requires groups of four students to investigate and explain the biology behind an environmental issue to a lay audience. Scaffolding activities support development of interpersonal communication skills (team training activities), visual and oral communication skills (through interaction with a journalist and/or TV presenter) and the basics of audience analysis. They also develop information literacy skills and involve students in evaluation of basic logic and argument in a selection of Youtube videos. Student engagement and motivation with the assignment is very high and it provides a fun and bonding experience for students in their first semester of university. Evidence and justification for design decisions are presented in this article and should prove useful for others looking to implement a similar task in a different context, either as a whole or part.

Author Biographies

Louise J. Kuchel, The University of Queensland

Lecturer - education research School of Biological Sciences

Sarah K. Stevens, The University of Queensland

School of Biological Sciences

Robbie Wilson, The University of Queensland

School of Biological Sciences

John Cokley, Swinburne University of Technology

Department of Media and Communication






Published paper