Psychology Discipline Assessment 2006-2007


Scope of assessment activities

         __√___Course-embedded assessment

                     _______ Pre- and post-testing

         ______ Outside the classroom

         __√___ Across the discipline

Direct measures of student learning

         __√___ Capstone experience

         ______ Portfolio assessment

         ______ Standardized tests

         ______ Performance on national licensure, certification or

                     pre-professional exams

         ______ Qualitative internal and external juried review of

                     of comprehensive senior projects

         ______ Externally reviewed exhibitions and performances in

                     the arts

         ______ External evaluation of performance during internships


Discussion and Description

Discipline goals, direct measures, and improved student learning


         1. Psychology discipline goals are

Š      awareness of the range of knowledge in psychology

Š      competency in translating behavioral questions into the terms of scientific inquiry

Š      competency in reading and critically synthesizing the technical literature in psychology

Š      competency in quantifying and statistically analyzing behavior

Š      awareness of ethical issues in psychology.


         2. The Capstone Course: Advanced Seminar.

         A major change as a result of assessment was a revision of the existing capstone requirement, the Empirical Investigations (EI) courses.  As noted in previous assessment summaries, the EI was an effective evaluation and capstone tool.  However, even after reconfiguring it into a two-semester sequence, the EI had become too onerous a task with too many students failing to complete it in the time allotted.  Research experience is vitally important for students who are capable and motivated to pursue doctoral study in psychology.  However, many students do not meet those needs or goals.  The result in those cases was a tremendous amount of “hand-holding,” leaving the capstone purpose in some doubt.  Again, by consulting its goals and resources, the discipline developed a new capstone requirement.  The Advanced Seminar course is intended to serve as a capstone experience for psychology majors, which means that its purpose is to both unify and provide a broader context for knowledge about the field of psychology gained throughout the undergraduate years.  To accomplish this, students will:

Š      demonstrate their ability to read and critically synthesize primary source material;

Š      add to the collective knowledge and understanding of the seminar class members through preparation and active participation;

Š      investigate a topic within a broader topic (e.g., “addictive behaviors”) in depth;

Š      lead a seminar discussion focused on their chosen topic;

Š      communicate their findings in an extensive written report and public presentation.

         For the seminar, course expectations and grading guidelines were developed as a discipline, but each section will be structured by individual faculty.  Seminar students and all psychology faculty will be expected to attend the public presentations, allowing assessment across the discipline.  Faculty will meet at the end of the academic year to evaluate the seminars.  This type of capstone experience is also more in-line with other majors at UMM.

         As noted, research experience is vitally important for students.  One challenge will be for the psychology discipline to maintain the level of research opportunity with the required research experience removed from the major.  Our intent is that quality and focus of research will improve with the removal of projects conducted just for the sake of getting them done.  This will take extra effort on the part of faculty to encourage students to do research and success at adequately meeting students’ needs in this area will need to be assessed.  One marker will be any change in the number of students engaged in UROP[1], REU, or other research experiences and another will be student participation in national and regional conferences.


         3. Restructuring of major requirements

         By monitoring advisee’s class choices since conversion to semesters certain deficiencies became apparent.  Although psychology’s offerings covered the core areas of the field, and although the basic structure of the major remained consistent with what was once offered under a calendar based on quarters, the faculty found that students were taking a narrower selection of upper-level courses.  Through comparisons with peer college’s psychology programs the faculty confirmed that the major

Š      required comparatively fewer course requirements

Š      offered markedly greater flexibility in what students may take rather than specifying credits to be taken within specific areas of the field. 

The discipline’s response was to first increase the number of credits required for the upper-level electives from 16 to 20 credits.  After monitoring that change for a year, it was evident that a more thorough evaluation and reorganization of the major was in order.


         Over the course of several lengthy meetings , the discipline reviewed the 2002 report by the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Undergraduate Psychology Major Competencies, comparison college’s catalogs, and its own goals and objectives.  It found that the goals and objectives stated for its students were consistent with those set forward by the APA task force, but that students could complete the existing program and not meet all of them.  Specifically, students could complete the undergraduate psychology major by only completing upper-level courses within a couple core areas of the field, thus specializing knowledge prematurely.

         The discipline’s solution was to start from scratch, armed with the information gained.  By matching objectives, faculty expertise, and credit requirements, it restructured the major, keeping the number of required credits at 42 while assuring that students will receive upper-level background across core areas of psychology.  Students will now take at least one course from each core category: Learning and Cognition; Biological and Comparative; Personality and Clinical; Developmental; and Social and Applied psychology.  Students still have some flexibility, choosing among 3 to 6 courses within any one category, and the ability to take additional courses from any category to meet the credit total.


               4. Course embedded assessments

         Over the past several years, one of the psychology faculty, in conjunction with director of UMM’s Academic Assistance office, has systematically evaluated student studying skills and performance in the introductory psychology course.  By identifying differences between successful and less successful students’ approaches to readings and course materials, they have developed an electronic guide for studying for introductory survey courses and the findings are now used as part of course instruction in the introductory psychology course.  Further, the research has helped inform and develop programs now in place at the Academic Assistance office.


General education categories spanned by the discipline


            Psychology courses carry one of the following general education designators: SS, human behavior, social processes, and institutions; HDiv, human diversity; Sci-L or Sci, physical and biological sciences with or without lab; IP, international perspective; Hist, historical perspectives; E/CR, ethical and civic responsibility. Exceptions are directed study and research practicum, which carry no designator.



[1] Undergraduate Research Opportunities, an all-University program.