Teaching Undergraduate Research Methods with Videotaped Mouse Behavior

Hill, Elizabeth, James Villanueva, and Sylvia Malcore

A new laboratory course was developed to provide research experience to undergraduate psychology majors. Videotapes of mouse behavior provided the raw material.  By focusing the laboratory on behavioral observation, studies could be conducted without invasive procedures or highly expensive equipment.  The course began with instructor-led demonstrations, moved to a whole-class project, and culminated with small-group projects.  Sampling methods, inter-rater reliability, ethogram construction, and behavior coding were covered.  Computerized data recording was introduced.  Teams of 3-5 students presented research proposals, collaborated to score the observations, analyzed the data, interpreted it, wrote a report and made a formal presentation.  Student evaluations of the laboratory were very positive on content, organization, lectures/presentations, experiments, course materials, assignments, feedback and grading, instructor’s attitude to students, workload, and pace.  While a one-semester class is not sufficient for training scientists who generate new research findings, the course met its modest objective of involving students in independent research. (Supported by NSF DUE CCLI #0633046)


Presented at the International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology, Vancouver, BC, 2009