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Learning Goals: Helping Students Achieve Success. Dawn R. Rager, Eileen M. Merges, & Laura L. Phelan Part 1: Learning Goals & Assessment Part 2: A New Practicum Course for Majors Part 3: Capstone Courses. Part 1: Learning Goals and Assessment Dawn R. Rager.

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Learning goals helping students achieve success

Learning Goals: Helping Students Achieve Success

Dawn R. Rager, Eileen M. Merges, & Laura L. Phelan Part 1: Learning Goals & Assessment Part 2: A New Practicum Course for Majors Part 3: Capstone Courses

Part 1 learning goals and assessment dawn r rager

Part 1:Learning Goals and AssessmentDawn R. Rager

Overview of psychology at sjfc

Overview of Psychology at SJFC

  • Our Psychology Department offers two degrees

    • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

      • more flexible to accommodate a 2nd major or minor

    • Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

      • emphasizes the rigor of scientific research

      • best suited for students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology or a related field

Learning goals

Learning Goals

  • Adapted from The APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major(www.apa.org/ed/psymajor_guideline.pdf)

    • Knowledge, Skills, and Values Consistent with the Science and Application of Psychology

      • Knowledge Base of Psychology

      • Research Methods in Psychology

      • Critical Thinking Skills in Psychology

      • Application of Psychology

      • Values in Psychology

    • Knowledge, Skills, and Values Consistent with a Liberal Arts Education that are Further Developed in Psychology.

      • Information/Technology Literacy & Communication Skills

      • Knowledge/Values of Sociocultural & International Awareness

      • Knowledge/Values of Personal & Career Development

Overview of program

Overview of Program

Program assessment plan

Program Assessment Plan

  • Purpose is to improve the program and student learning

  • Linked to learning goals/outcomes which, in turn, are aligned with departmental and institutional missions

  • Developed/implemented with input from all department members and with support from the College

  • Factors in recommendations from various sources, e.g.,

    • APA’s The Assessment CyberGuide for Learning Goals and Outcomes in the Undergraduate Psychology Major (www.apa.org/ed/guide_outline.html )

    • Dunn, D.S., Mehrotra, C. M. & Halonen, J.S. (Eds.) (2004). Measuring up: Educational assessment challenges and practices for psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

  • Implemented in manageable way for faculty members and students

  • Is a work continuously in progress

Apa best practices in assessment

APA Best Practices in Assessment

  • Top 10 Task Force Recommendations (www.apa.org/ed/best_practices.html)

    • Encourage department ownership to drive the process.

    • Define your objectives in the context of your institutional mission.

    • Focus on collaboration and teamwork.

    • Clarify the purpose of assessment.

    • Identify clear, measurable, and developmental student learning

    • Use multiple measures and sources consistent with resources.

    • Implement continuous assessment with clear, manageable timelines.

    • Help students succeed on assessment tasks.

    • Interpret and use assessment results appropriately.

    • Evaluate your assessment practices.

Implementing our assessment plan

Implementing Our Assessment Plan

  • Formal program assessment began in the 2005-06 academic year

    • Assessed Goal 2 – Research Methods in Psychology

  • Continued during the 2006-2007 academic year

    • Assessed Goal 4 – Application of Psychology

The data goal 2 2005 2006

The Data: Goal 2 (2005-2006)

Conclusions for goal 2

Conclusions for Goal 2

  • Our students are demonstrating appropriate progress for most aspects of Goal 2

    • understanding research methods and their strengths/ weaknesses

    • designing & conducting research & interpreting the results

    • preparing APA style reports of their research

  • Area in need of improvement

    • we need to help our students better understand statistics at a conceptual level

    • Seabrook (2006). Is the teaching of statistical calculations helpful to students’ statistical thinking? Psychology Learning and Teaching, 5 (2), 153-161.

The data goal 4 2006 2007

The Data: Goal 4 (2006-2007)

Goal 4 assignments

Goal 4 – Assignments

  • Health Psychology (PSYC 255) – Goals 4.1 & 4.2

    • Gather information about your family health history & use heath psychology theories and concepts to develop a preventative health plan for yourself

  • Social Psychology (PSYC 235) – Goal 4.1

    • Use social psychology theories and concepts to design an effective program for encouraging high school students to engage in safe sex practices

  • Abnormal Psychology (PSYC 401) – Goal 4.2

    • Case study with ethical and sociocultural implications

Conclusions for goal 4

Conclusions for Goal 4

  • Our students are demonstrating reasonable progress for some aspects of Goal 4 (Application of Psychology):

    • recognizing that ethical issues influence the application of psychological principles in solving problems

    • understanding some ways in which psychology can be applied to solve real world problems

  • Areas in need of improvement – we need to help our students:

    • develop a greater appreciation for how sociocultural issues influence the application of psychological principles in solving problems

    • better understand various ways in which psychology may be applied to solve real world problems

Evaluating our assessment practices

Evaluating Our Assessment Practices

  • The data that we’ve collected to date also indicates that we need to:

    • standardize some of our measures (e.g., paper Δ scores)

    • improve the reliability of our measures for Goal 4

      • separately evaluate students’ appreciation of ethical & sociocultural issues

      • develop operational definitions for the categories in our rating scale (i.e., below, meets, and exceeds expectations)

      • possibly use more than two judges to evaluate samples of student work

Assessment challenges opportunities

Assessment: Challenges & Opportunities

  • Program assessment can be a challenge in that it requires

    • Careful thought and planning

    • Commitment, time, and effort

    • Continuous review and revision

  • However, despite its challenges, program assessment can

    • be implemented in a way that is manageable (and interesting) for faculty and students

    • provide important insights regarding the effectiveness of the program

    • lead to continuous improvements in the program and student learning

Part 2 a new practicum course for majors laura l phelan

Part 2:A New Practicum Course for MajorsLaura L. Phelan

Practicum for psychology majors

Practicum for Psychology Majors

  • Why offer this course?

    • Students are unaware or fail to take advantage of learning opportunities

      • Ex/ fieldwork, Independent Research, Honors Program, Psychology Club, Psi Chi

    • Students are not prepared to develop long term goals and effective plans for pursuing careers

    • Because of the large number of majors and heavy advising loads, advising sessions are spent mainly on academic advising

    • Practicum would allow us to promote student development in these areas

    • Practicum designed to achieve various elements of our student learning goals

Student learning goals

Student Learning Goals

  • Goal 3: Critical thinking skills in Psychology

  • Goal 4: Application of Psychology

  • Goal 5:Values in Psychology

  • Goal 6: Skills consistent with liberal arts education

  • Goal 7:Sociocultural and International awareness

  • Goal 8: Personal and career development

Practicum for psychology majors1

Practicum for Psychology Majors

  • Requirement for new students starting Fall 07

  • Pre-requisite: “C” or better in either PSYC 200 or PSYC 201

  • Taken in sophomore or junior year

  • One section per semester team-taught by all full time faculty

  • 20 to 40 students per class

  • 1 credit course

  • S/U grade

Texts we are considering

Texts We are Considering

Kuther, T.L. (2006). The psychology major’s handbook (2nd edition). Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth.

Landrum, R.E. & Davis, S.F. (2007). The psychology major: Career options and strategies for success (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Course goals

Course Goals

  • Students will

    • Review skills necessary to be successful psychology majors

    • Explore psychology learning opportunities

    • Explore career opportunities

    • Prepare job/graduate school materials

Syllabus topics sample activities

Syllabus Topics & Sample Activities

  • Self-reflection and identification of personal and professional values

    • Imagine that you have just passed on. You have devoted yourself to your life’s work and have been successful in its execution. What contribution did you make to a better world? When all is said and done, what statement did your life make? Use your answers to these questions to prepare your obituary.

  • Brainstorm and research potential career choices

    • Research a career that you are interested in and one that you are not interested in.

  • Review and explore academic and extracurricular experiences

    • Psychology Involvement Session: The class will recruit students to speak in class about their involvement in learning experiences outside of the classroom

Topics sample activities cont d

Topics & Sample Activities (cont’d)

  • Prepare graduate school and/or employment application

    • Resume, vita, personal statements

  • Cultivate professional relationships

    • Requesting letters of recommendation questionnaire

  • Work on interview skills

    • Mock interviews

  • Discuss potential changes in careers and emphasize the importance of continuing education and becoming a life-long learner

    • Attitudes and Options exercise (Landrum & Davis, 2007): Quiz on attitudes towards growth in a career



  • Our practicum covers important topics in an Intro to the major course consistent with those identified in Landrum, Shoemaker, and Davis (2003)

  • Plan to assess effectiveness of the course

    • Psychology Major Career Information Survey Items (Thomas & McDaniel, 2004)

    • Psychology Survey (Landrum & Davis, 2007)



Kuther, T.L. (2006). The psychology major’s handbook (2nd edition). Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth.

Landrum, R.E., & Davis, S.F. (2007). The psychology major: Career options and strategies for success (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Landrum, R.E., Shoemaker, C.S., & Davis, S.F. (2003). Important topics in an “Introduction to the Psychology Major” course. Teaching of Psychology, 30, 48-51.

Thomas, J.H., & McDaniel, C.R. (2004). Effectiveness of a required course in career planning for psychology majors. TeachingofPsychology, 31, 22-27.

Part 3 capstone courses eileen m merges

Part 3:Capstone CoursesEileen M. Merges

Capstone definitions

Capstone: Definitions

  • Opportunity for students “to demonstrate comprehensive learning in their major through some type of product or performance” (Palomba & Banta, 1999, p.124)

    • Palomba, C.A. & Banta, T.W. (1999). Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

  • “Requires students to bring together the skills that have been developed in their program of study” (Halpern, 2004, p. 22)

    • Halpern, D.F. (2004). Outcomes assessment 101. In Dunn, D.S., Mehrotra, C. M. & Halonen, J.S. (Eds.), Measuring up: Educational assessment challenges and practices for psychology (pp. 11-26). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Capstone courses at sjfc

Capstone Courses at SJFC

  • History and Systems of Psychology (PSYC 415)

  • Abnormal Psychology (PSYC 401)

  • Seminar in Psychology (PSYC 407)

History and systems

History and Systems

  • Assignments

    • Major paper

      • Examples: The Mind-Body problem, History of a particular discipline, biography of historical figure within context of psychology

    • Presentation



  • Topic of seminar changes each semester. Recent examples include:

    • Sleep

    • Eating Behavior

    • Human Sexuality

    • Detective Fiction and Psychology

    • Women’s Health Issues

    • Political psychology



  • Topic decided by individual faculty

  • Emphasis on reading and discussing primary sources

  • Assignments must include a major paper and a presentation

Abnormal psychology

Abnormal Psychology

  • Etiology and treatment of major diagnostic categories are considered from the major theoretical perspectives

    • Biological

    • Cognitive

    • Behavioral

    • Socio-Cultural

    • Psychodynamic

    • Humanistic

Abnormal psychology1

Abnormal Psychology

  • Assignments

    • Weekly case studies

      • formulating case conceptualizations from a variety of perspectives

      • provide opportunity to discuss the socio-cultural factors that impact the development and expression of psychological disorders

Abnormal psychology2

Abnormal Psychology

  • Assignments (cont’d)

    • Major paper - examining a disorder from at least 2 of the major theoretical perspectives

    • Includes thorough review of relevant literature

    • Requires critical reasoning abilities to analyze and critique literature and formulate own conclusions

Capstone and assessment

Capstone and Assessment

  • Papers in seminar courses used to assess goal 2.3 (consume literature)

  • Goal 4.1 & 4.2 (application and ethical/socio-cultural issues) assessed in Abnormal Psychology

  • Departmental discussion surrounding comprehensive exam in Abnormal and/or History & Systems to assess knowledge base in Psychology

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