Assessment Findings and Curricular Improvements Department of Psychology Undergraduate Program. Assessment Measures

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1 Assessment Findings and Curricular Improvements Department of Psychology Undergraduate Program Assessment Measures The Department of Psychology uses the following measures to assess departmental learning outcomes: pass rates on comprehensive examinations, performance in required courses (introductory, intermediate, and Senior Seminar) including enrollment, grades, and course evaluations, and student perception surveys. Assessment Findings Overall Performance (Attachment 1): In general, it is expected that Psychology Majors should reflect the general undergraduate population at the University. Average GPAs of Psychology majors during the last five years are roughly comparable to those for all students at the University. Senior Seminar (Attachment 2): Undergraduate majors in the Department of Psychology are required to successfully complete Senior Seminar in the fall semester of their senior year. The Department analyzed enrollment, course grades, and evaluations of the Senior Seminar for a period of five years (fall 2003 through fall 2007). During the five-year period examined, course enrollment ranged from 29 to 49, reflecting differences in university-wide enrollment. The course requires students to write papers on roughly a weekly basis, as well as to make class presentations, using the appropriate presentation technology, once or twice during the semester. Satisfactory performance reflects an ability to deal with a wide range of psychological issues in both written and oral form. Large enrollments present a challenge to these requirements. Adjustments are made to the timing of presentations and the frequency and length of papers to deal with these fluctuations. Course evaluations were positive and consistent over time, ranging from 8.33 to 9.20 (on a 10-point scale) for the instructor and from 7.28 to 8.23 for the course. These evaluations did not vary systematically with course size, suggesting that the year-to-year adaptations were reasonably successful. Average grades ranged from 3.01 to 3.27 over the 5- year period. The lowest average reflected a single student who failed due to specific circumstances that resulted in frequent unexcused absences. That student successfully completed the course in the following year. Over the five-year period only 4 of 191 students did not complete the course satisfactorily the first time; the students who repeated the course completely it successfully the second time. Comprehensive Examination (Attachment 3): The Department of Psychology uses performance on one of two standardized tests as its comprehensive examinations, the Major Field Test in Psychology and the Graduate Record Examination Psychology Subject Test. The Department examined passage rates over the last five years. Using these assessments allows us to compare the performance of our students with national samples. The Major Field Test includes performance data from a wide variety of colleges; the GRE provides a comparison group of students who are planning to attend graduate school. During the last five years, the passage rate has been, on average, 89.5%. Of that number 15.5% have passed with honors. Students who fail the examination are allowed to repeat it (or take the alternative examination). In all cases, students who initially failed passed the comprehensive exam requirement on their second try, and during the period

2 assessed, no student was delayed in graduating because of performance on comprehensive exams. Perceptions of General Education Outcomes by Psychology Majors (Attachment 4): Each spring, the Department of Psychology uses the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to benchmark the general education outcomes of its senior students against senior students enrolled in: Catholic University, Carnegie Peers, and the entire NSSE participant group. Seniors in the Department of Psychology view their proficiency in all general education areas as at least comparable to that of all comparison groups used (based on statistically nonsignificant differences). In the area of proficiency in oral and written communication, seniors in the Psychology Department rated themselves above comparison groups on six of seven measures, three of which were significant. Students reported writing significantly more short papers than any of their comparison groups, and significantly more moderate length papers than the Carnegie Peers. They also had a significantly larger number of assigned books or book-length readings than either Carnegie Peers or the NSSE 2007 comparison groups Intermediate Course Discussion [PSY322 and PSY350] (Attachments 5 and 6): Introductory Statistics (PSY322) and General Research Methods in Psychology (PSY350) are both required courses for Psychology majors. They are taken after General Psychology and before other laboratory courses, typically in the sophomore year. Statistics is offered only in the fall and Research Methods only in the spring. The majority of enrolled students are Psychology majors. The Department analyzed enrollment, grades, and course evaluations for these courses for the period from academic year to Enrollment in these two courses has fluctuated in large part based on annual enrollment patterns, including students who need to retake these courses. These courses depend on quantitative skills and so are often challenging for psychology students. Average grades across the 5-year period ranged from 2.83 to 3.14 in PSY 322 and 2.67 to 3.18 in PSY 350. For Statistics, student evaluations yielded ratings of the instructor that were consistently above 9 (of 10) for the period examined; course ratings were consistently over 8. For Research Methods, there was a significant increase in ratings for instructor and course in 2006, coincident with a change in instructor. Ratings in the last 3 years averaged 8.91 for the instructor and 8.10 for the course. Introductory Level Course Discussion [PSY201] (Attachment 7): General Psychology (PSY201) or its equivalent is required of all majors and is a prerequisite for a number of upper level courses. In addition to Department majors it is a popular course for many students in other majors. The Department examined course enrollment, grades, and course evaluations over the period from spring 2003 to spring Course enrollment increased significantly during the period examined, from 275 in academic year to 385 in Average course grades during this period remained roughly stable around a 3.0, with an exception in spring of This course is taught as a series of sections, not to exceed 35 students each. The change in enrollment has been addressed by increasing the number of sections. The sections are taught by Ph.D. students who are beyond their first year of study. They are provided with materials for the course in the spring, and are provided with specifics on teaching the course at the beginning of the fall semester. All sections share a common textbook and similar course requirements. In general, this course is very well received by the students. Average ratings for both instructor

3 and course have exceeded 8 on a 10-point scale for every semester examined (8.01 to 8.96 for instructor and 8.01 to 8.69 for the course). Curricular Improvements In the last five years, the Psychology majors appear to be performing successfully. Changes to the curriculum have therefore been limited and incremental. Each year the Department considers potential modifications to core courses. Although serious consideration has been given to a larger lecture format for PSY201, the current system of smaller sections seems to be working well, and fits with the goal of having smaller classes especially for first-year students. Individual instructor variation is addressed by interaction with the instructor, usually by the Department s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). A spring workshop and supervision during the period of instruction will be added to ensure adequate support for the instructors. In order to provide comparability across sections, the DUS does an analysis of midterm grades across sections. Instructors are apprised of these results and are given suggestions for making their grading more in line with the department norm in those cases where there are significant deviations from the mean. As part of their course experience, undergraduate students learn about research through participation in one of a number of ongoing research studies. In recent years, there have been fewer studies for which the students are eligible since much research involves special populations (autism, schizophrenia) or special techniques (fmri). In response, the Department is considering several other ways to provide that experience, including psychology-related experiences in other departments or classic experiments. The intermediate statistics and research methods courses are considered challenging. These are the two courses that require the most support from teaching assistants who have lab/discussion sections. Extensive effort is made to provide practical experience in analyses together with classroom lectures. In the last two years, substantial changes have been made to the Research Methods course to provide a more realistic experience of how methods are used in the field. Each student is responsible for an independent research proposal. Throughout the semester, the lab meetings and weekly assignments walk students systematically through the steps of designing the study and writing the proposal. Toward the end, they disseminate their project during a mock conference poster session in which they serve as both presenters and attendees giving feedback. Department faculty also attend the session, providing comments and encouragement. They are encouraged to incorporate the comments, if appropriate, into their final project. In the end, they write a full research proposal (in APA format). Modifications are made annually to the Senior Seminar to adapt to the changing numbers of students. The Department is considering other research opportunities for the most capable students, such as a Senior Thesis option. In order to ensure that our students continue to be adequately prepared compared to their peers at other institutions, procedural changes have been made to the requirements for passing the Comprehensive Examinations. These changes also create a systematic benchmark across the two examination options, the Major Field Test in Psychology (MFT) and the Graduate Record Examination Psychology Subject Test (GRE). Cutoffs are now set and revised for both MFT and GRE so that passing requires a minimum score no more than 1 standard deviation below the 3-year average of the national mean. Honors on the MFT is given for scores no less than 1 standard deviation above the mean, and on the GRE for no less than 0.5 standard deviations above the mean. The rationale for the lower cutoff for the GRE is that the comparison sample is from a more selective group of students who are typically continuing to graduate study in psychology. These changes resulted in a reduction in MFT passing and honors scores and an increase in the GRE

4 passing and honors scores. The net effect was fewer failures on comps since the adjustments took effect in the academic year. Our ongoing review of course offerings has led to several curricular modifications reflecting changes in the field of psychology. There is a growing emphasis on neuroscience in psychology, and that area has been an emphasis in the Department s strategic plan. Coincident with a new faculty position in Cognitive Neuroscience, the Department introduced a course in Clinical Neuroscience. Similarly, as graduate programs in Forensic, Sport, Industrial/Organizational, and Health Psychology become increasingly popular, we have introduced undergraduate courses taught by lecturers in each of these areas to familiarize students with these career options. Finally, with our society becoming more diverse, competence in and understanding of multicultural perspectives is important. The Department thus introduced a course in Community and Cultural Psychology in The opportunity to engage in research and to interact with faculty and graduate students conducting research is another emphasis of our undergraduate program. We continue to have Research Apprenticeships available for undergraduates, and we recently have added the possibility of such apprenticeships at approved off-campus locations with both an on-campus and an off-campus supervisor. We have also added the option for up to two semesters of off-campus Psychology Internship for credit.

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