Research Project

>> overview Educational television

Knowledge and documentary programmes for children in 2002-2003

In children's television scheduling, entertainment and fiction are the most ubiquitous genres. Conversely, parents/educators try to encourage the consumption of non-fiction genres such as documentaries but report that these types of programmes are less attractive to children.
This research project carried out by the IZI investigates educational programmes in order to learn more about what features of these programmes are attractive for children, as well as how this content might impact upon learning. This research is theoretically grounded in present educational learning theories, which see children as active participants in knowledge construction.

As a topic, children's television consumption and content have been the focus of much academic research, but since concrete facts are relatively rare, a broad-based investigation will be conducted.

Pilot study
The pilot study was carried out about the children's programmes Willi wills wissen and Felix und die wilden Tiere. The children watched one episode, discussed the content with an educator, drew what they liked most, and in the end talked to the programmes' hosts, Willi and Felix, about the programmes. A few weeks later telephone interviews were conducted to find out what the children still remembered from the programme.

In total 16 children aged between 7 and 11 participated in three groups. The aim, in addition to consulting the producers about the development of these formats, was to work out a suitable methodological repertoire for the main phase of the research.

Main phase
The main aim of this study was to research the structure of educational and documentary programmes that are attractive for children (7-11 years old) and that contain moments encouraging education.

Research questions:
  • For children, what is central in the programme?
  • Wherein can learning- and memory outcomes be discovered (learning understood as construction of meaning) directly after watching the programme and 4 weeks later?
  • Are there correlations between attention during the programme and learning- and memory outcomes?
  • Are there any gender- and class-specific differences?
  • Are there any correlations to intended humour?
  • Are there any indications as to the manner in which information may best be embedded so as to be particularly successful in encouraging learning- and memory outcomes?

300 children from day-care centres in Munich were shown one episode of a current educational programme for schoolchildren. The six chosen programmes were:

  • Willi wills wissen (BR)
  • Wissen macht Ah! (WDR)
  • Null-Acht-13 (WDR/SFB/ MDR)
  • Was ist was TV (Super RTL)
  • Felix und die wilden Tiere (BR)
  • Anja und Anton (ZDF)

During their viewing the children were recorded on video. Subsequently, they drew what they liked best. In individual interviews they were questioned about the drawing, the programme and about their individual acquisition of information.

3-4 weeks after the investigation there was a second wave. The children drew what they remembered best about the programme and described what they thought they had learnt.

The first results regarding humour were introduced at the IZI conference on December 12th 2002; the complete results were published in TelevIZIon 2004/1 (only available in German).