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Supporting Teachers and Their Students through Content Acquisition Podcasts

Author: Nicholas Jay Hoekstra

What tools can be used to support both educators and students in learning effective instruction and learning strategies? In the October, 2021 CIDDL Research and Practice Brief, we interviewed Dr. Michael Kennedy to learn such a tool and related research behind its development. Dr. Kennedy is an associate professor in the Department of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Virginia.

In this brief, Dr. Kennedy introduces his work around the use of multimedia instruction, especially through the use of Content Acquisition Podcasts (CAPs), to enhance learning. Dr. Kennedy discusses the important benefits to learning that come from mixing visual and auditory inputs in multimedia instruction. Because individuals have limited capacity to process new and incoming information, a major challenge for educators is knowing how to guide a learner’s cognitive processing without overloading their working memory. Multimedia instruction can be leveraged to present information in simple, robust ways using both visual and auditory modes.

Content Acquisition Podcast

Podcasts offer an excellent medium for multimedia instruction that is growing in popularity. Dr. Kennedy’s work revolves around the use of CAPs. CAPs are short, multimedia vignettes that use clear images, limited vocabulary, and concise narration to present instruction. One example of how Dr. Kennedy is implementing CAPs is by supporting both pre-service and in-service teachers in learning evidence-based practices.

CAPs can provide teachers with both direct instruction on how to implement a practice as well as model how the implementation looks in the classroom. Dr. Kennedy and his colleagues have demonstrated that teachers who learn evidence-based practices through CAPs implement these practices with greater fidelity than teachers who learn through more traditional lectures and readings. Their research also shows that CAPs can be combined with data-driven feedback to provide continued support for teachers over time.

Supporting Students with Diverse Learning Needs

Finally, Dr. Kennedy also discusses how CAPs can be used to support students with diverse learning needs. In particular, one challenge that many students face as they move into middle and secondary school is an increasing amount of content-specific vocabulary, especially in science classrooms. Dr. Kennedy and his colleagues have demonstrated that CAPs, besides supporting teachers in learning strategies for teaching vocabulary, can also be adapted to directly teach students vocabulary. CAPs can be a great resource to facilitate student vocabulary growth. To do so, teachers can first support students in reviewing background knowledge, then provide a  student-friendly definition, examples, and non-examples, and finally highlight the structure of a word.

Check out this page to review this Brief or click here to download a PDF copy of the Brief. More CIDDL Briefs can be found on the CIDDL Research and Practice Briefs webpage. Please visit our website for more resources and sign up for the updates from CIDDL.