Learning through Filmmaking: Translating Science to Non-Scientists

Paul Harris

 By Paul Harris

What inspired you to implement this project?

As a professor, I spend a great deal of my time trying to communicate science to non-scientists (primarily students). I find that this process of translation actually gives me a better understanding of the material I am trying to communicate. I wanted to share this experience with capstone students who have been learning science for several years but have little opportunity to communicate this information with others. This project seemed like an effective way to challenge students and have them engage in that activity.

What were the goals for this project?

The goals for this project were to have students produce informational videos “translating” scientific research into a language and format accessible to a non-scientists. The videos are targeted to a specific audience with the intent of providing them with useful information that can be applied to a particular issue or problem.

Identify the tools used for this project.

Video equipment and editing software.

What pedagogical techniques, strategies, and/or philosophies did you employ?

Having students learn by teaching — in this case, teaching through video.

What were some of the lessons that you learned from implementing this project?

It requires more time than you would expect.

How did this endeavor change your teaching in expected or unexpected ways?

I find that I use more video in my teaching.

What did you change (or would you change) the second time you implemented this project in class?

I simplified the assignment, gave students more time, and implemented smaller film projects to scaffold their learning.

How did this project impact student learning?

Hard to say. Hopefully positively.


Paul Harris
Professor of Psychology


Paul Harris is a Professor of Psychology at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. His training combines master’s degrees in both interior design and experimental psychology, a doctorate in social psychology, and over 30 years of experience teaching and conducting research on person-environment relationships. Dr. Harris has published on topics such as the role of house decoration in communicating resident identity, how family privacy practices relate to home attachment, environmental sources of patient satisfaction in hospital settings, how personality and environment predict unsafe driving practices, and strategies for communicating scientific research to non-scientists.