1. Become critical readers of complex texts.

Students learn to read and interpret primary psychology research literature, beginning in Psychology 101, Introductory Psychology. These complex texts include associated supporting data, complicated methodologies, and detailed diagrams. Building on this introduction, students learn to read and interpret research articles, including graphs, tables, and statistical analyses through the sequence of Psy221 (Research Design and Analysis), a minimum of 3 core (200 level) courses, 3 advanced (300 – 400 level) courses, and a senior exercise.

2. Develop research and analytical skills.

All majors in Psychology are required to take Psychology 221, Research Design and Analysis. This course has both a lecture and laboratory component. The lecture portion of the course is devoted to learning basic statistics and counts toward the college Numerical and Symbolic Reasoning distribution requirement. The sequence of courses required to complete the psychology major assures that in one of more of these courses, students develop research and analytical skills in several possible ways:

  • organize and develop a research proposal,
  • examine primary research and lead a discussion which interprets the paper by extending beyond the specific information presented in the paper
  • formulate questions, which extend into implications of the research or future research directions
  • apply the scientific method of inquiry to ask a question, collect data to help answer that question, and make sense of the data using statistical analysis tools
  • design and run basic scientific experiments, in some of these the results of which are not predetermined. Students contribute to these laboratory experiments using information derived from primary literature sources, and test a hypothesis by gathering data using appropriate psychological research techniques including behavioral observation and quantification, survey techniques, and computer based cognitive tests

3. Learn and practice effective strategies for working both independently and collaboratively.

Some of the work is independent (see other Learning Goals). Group cooperation and collaboration in the design and performance of laboratory experiments is coupled with individual analysis and reporting of results. Beyond laboratory experiments, students work collaboratively in several possible ways among our courses: In some cases, several students are assigned as discussion leaders for each week. Students work in pairs to develop a research proposal that mimics the type of collaboration found in science. In some cases students also collaborate on the presentation. Students work in small groups on several projects throughout the semester. Students organize and present a special research symposium, which is open to the campus community.

4. Develop the ability to communicate clearly, coherently, and effectively in written and oral expression.

We foster a variety of opportunities for students to develop their written and oral communication skills:

  • students write comprehensive laboratory reports
  • students may present their results in a Powerpoint presentation and defend their findings as well as their methodologies in a question- and-answer session
  • students write laboratory reports in a format typical of the format used in peer reviewed scientific journals. Students may also present results in poster form or through oral class presentation conforming to standards typically required at symposia of professional scientific societies

Overall, we encourage class participation, and exam questions aim to go beyond the basic information. Exams and other assignments are diverse, and questions range from multiple choice to essays to diagrams to enable students to integrate information and articulate clearly what they have learned.

Students in psychology are required to take 3 courses in the category that we call “Advanced.” The Department has designated all of the Advanced courses as Writing Intensive.

5. Acquire quantitative skills.

Quantitative skills are acquired through and required for data analysis, making solutions and measurements using laboratory equipment, as some examples; data collection is incorporated into nearly all exercises with analysis and interpretation reported in subsequent laboratory reports. Quantitative skills are also required to understand the specific content of some courses. In Psychology, this is closely related to #2 above.

6. Develop scientific literacy.

Scientific literacy in the Psychology Major has both intellectual and experimental components. Intellectually, to access primary scientific research, students will 1. identify the central hypothesis or goal; 2. understand the basics of the experimental approach; 3. articulate the critical findings; 4. articulate the implications of this research Experimentally, students learn hands-on science in a research laboratory – how to collect, analyze and interpret data.

7. Cultivate the ability to make informed ethical judgments.

All laboratory exercises and faculty research involving people are conducted in accord with the guidelines of the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Because all students and faculty members involved in research with humans must take a tutorial online and pass a test, we have decided to incorporate this into the Research Design and Analysis course (Psy 221) to insure that all students have passed this requirement by the time they are involved in research in their junior and senior years.

8. Acquire knowledge of diverse cultural traditions and global perspectives.

There are courses on culture and psychology within Developmental Psychology and Social Psychology in the Department. We intend to reinforce these themes by including them as parts of a wider range of our courses.