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Assessment of Undergraduate Psychology Curriculum: JMU Practices & Experiences. Donna Sundre Executive Director, Center for Assessment and Research Studies Michael Stoloff Head, Department of Psychology with the assistance of the JMU Psychology Assessment Committee:

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assessment of undergraduate psychology curriculum jmu practices experiences

Assessment of Undergraduate Psychology Curriculum: JMU Practices & Experiences

Donna Sundre

Executive Director,

Center for Assessment and Research Studies

Michael Stoloff

Head, Department of Psychology

with the assistance of the JMU

Psychology Assessment Committee:

Kevin Apple Kenn Barron

Monica Reis-Bergan Sherry Serdikoff


jmu at a glance
JMU at a Glance

“We are committed to preparing students to be educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives.”–JMU Mission

Doctoral intensive, mostly undergraduate state university

  • 14,700 Undergraduates, 700 Graduate Students
the jmu psychology major
The JMU Psychology Major
  • 38-credit hour major program
    • Introductory Psychology & 11 credit hours of statistics & research methods are prerequisites to most courses.
    • Choice of 4 of 9 “Area Courses” provide fundamental content
    • Content in greater depth through advanced courses and capstone experiences.
    • Strong encouragement of research experiences, service learning, thesis & field placement (but not required).
  • One of the most popular majors on campus
    • ~800 Majors
    • ~200 Psychology-Preparation Students awaiting admission

The Psychology Major38 credit hours

  • Complete Gpsyc 101
  • Complete Math 220
  • Complete at least 15 credit hours at JMU
  • Earn a 2.6 G.P.A. or higher




Social SciencePsychology

Natural SciencePsychology


PSYC 211:

Psyc Research Methods

PSYC 210:

Psychological Statistics

Optional Electives


Psychology Preparation / General Education Foundation

GPSY 101: General Psychology & Math 220: Statistics

the assessment culture at jmu
The Assessment Culture at JMU

“JMU requires students to take a series of student outcomes assessments prior to their graduation. These assessments are held at three stages of students’ academic careers, including:

  • as entering first-year students
  • at the mid-undergraduate point when they have earned 45 to 70 credit hours, typically the sophomore year
  • as graduating seniors in their academic major(s) “
  • Students will also complete an alumni survey after graduation

-JMU Undergraduate Catalog

the assessment culture at jmu1
The Assessment Culture at JMU
  • Long-standing and pervasive expectation at JMU that assessment findings will guide decision-making.
    • Annual reports, program change proposals, academic program review self-study documents all required substantial descriptions of how Assessment guides decision-making
  • The Center for Assessment and Research Studies (CARS)
    • Opened 1986
    • One of the largest campus-based agencies devoted to outcome assessment in the US (10 faculty, 3 staff)
    • Provides support for university-wide, and departmentally based assessment programs
  • CARS administers all general education and alumni surveys
  • Every program must collect assessment data each year
  • Academic Program Reviews are scheduled every 6 years for every major
psychology major senior assessment
Psychology Major Senior Assessment
  • Content learning (ACAT, previously MFAT)
  • Information Literacy
  • Writing
  • Sociocultural Awareness
  • Career Planning and Development
  • Satisfaction and Self-Assessment Online Exit Survey
  • Other
what we learned and how the information has informed our decisions
What we learned and how the information has informed our decisions.
  • What we learned from assessment.
  • What we expect from our students.
  • How we are responding.
content learning
Content Learning
  • Our students generally earn scores in the 50-65th percentile range for most content areas and overall.
  • We believe a top program should produce students who earn top scores in psychology content knowledge.
  • We are proposing to change our major program requirement from 2 to 3 courses (change from 12 to 18 credit hours), increasing the hours required for the major from 38 to 44.
information literacy
Information Literacy
  • Since 1999, our students have consistently earn solid scores, meeting our expectations.
  • Some newly hired faculty have discontinued some information literacy modules in our Research Methods course.
  • Our Assessment data shows no decrement in student performance, demonstrating the new pedagogy is as effective as the old, and there is no reason for concern.
  • We decided to do nothing.
  • Assessments agree with faculty and student perceptions that the quality of writing skills among many of our students is poor.
  • We believe writing is a vital skill for all college graduates including Psychology Majors.
  • We have:
    • encouraged faculty to include more writing activities in courses throughout the curriculum
    • systematically reduced class size for courses that require writing
sociocultural awareness
Sociocultural Awareness
  • Many Psychology Majors have little experience with Sociocultural issues.
  • We believe that students should understand the influence of culture and gender on the development of psychological theory; they should be able to discuss the generalizability of findings across cultures, gender, and to populations worldwide.
  • We have developed a proposal that will require a Sociocultural course for all our majors
  • We have committed to:
    • include more discussion of these issues in courses throughout the curriculum.
    • develop additional coursework that specifically addresses these issues.
    • require every student to take at least one course in cultural psychology.
career planning and development
Career Planning and Development
  • Our students do not feel well prepared to search for employment after completing their bachelor’s degree.
  • 2/3 of our students will seek jobs immediately after graduation.
  • We responded by:
    • Completely rewriting our web site, adding substantially more career-development information.
    • Increasing the volume of career-focused information contained in our weekly e-mail newsletter to Majors, including announcement of workshops available to all students on campus.
    • Work with faculty to improve the volume and quality of career-focused advising.
senior exit survey
Senior Exit Survey
  • Our students are generally happy with our program and faculty, but they have offered numerous suggestions for program improvement.
  • We are committed to providing an environment in which students can meet their goals; we are committed to listening to student feedback.
  • We responded by hiring:
    • an I/O Psychologist after students asked for more coursework in that area.
    • additional part-time faculty to provide selected advanced courses, taught by people in the field readily available.
  • We responded by increasing
    • the opportunities and volume of writing in our courses.
    • the number of research and service-learning opportunities available.
our number 1 problem
Our Number 1 Problem

Finding the time for complete data analysis, interpretation, reflection, and action planning. We want to publish more about our processes, our results, and how we have used them to improve our program.

  • You need to do more than collect data and prepare descriptive statistics.
  • You need to use the data to ask specific questions
  • For example:
    • Are specific curriculum changes having an impact on student outcomes.
    • Do students who have certain specific experiences develop greater knowledge or skill, or have some other measure of success than students who don’t have those experiences?
highly recommended
Highly Recommended
  • Halonen, J. S., Appleby, D. C., Brewer, C. L., Buskist, W., Gillem, A. R., Halpern, D. et al., Hill, G. W., Lloyd, M. A., Rudmann, J. L., & Whitlow, V. M. (Eds.). (2002). Undergraduate Major Learning Goals and Outcomes: A report. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved November 30, 2000, from taskforcereport2.pdf
  • Stoloff, M.L., Apple, K.J., Barron, K.E., Reis-Bergan, M., Sundre, D.L. (2004). Seven Goals for Effective Program Assessment. In: D. S. Dunn, C. Mehrotria, and J. S. Halonen (Eds.) Measuring Up: Assessment Challenges and Practices for Psychology. APA Books: Washington DC.