Monthly Archives: September 2014

Characteristics of Successful Undergraduate Psychology Programs

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Submitted by Courtney Simpsob

Article Reference

Stoloff, M. L., Curtis, N. A., Rodgers, M., Brewster, J., & McCarthy, M. A. (2012). Characteristics of successful undergraduate psychology programs. Teaching of Psychology, 39(2), 91-99.

Article DOI

10.1177/0098628312437721

Summary of Article

Several organizations offer guidelines for what content students should learn and what skills students should develop while obtaining an undergraduate degree in psychology. As a whole, however, the discipline of psychology has yet to identify specific criteria that allows for direct comparisons of a quality degree across institutions. The authors of this article sought to assess the psychology major experience across multiple institutions to try to determine the factors that produce the most successful and satisfied students. Department of Psychology chairs from 110 institutions provided program characteristics that were examined and related to student achievement and satisfaction.
The results indicated that institutions that focus on undergraduate students, engage more students in experiential learning (research experience, internships, and/or field placements), and have more frequent student-faculty interaction outside of the classroom send more students to graduate school. The data suggests that student-faculty interaction in the contexts of academic advising, research supervision, and faculty participation in student events is especially important for graduate school attendance. Furthermore, students appear to be more satisfied in programs where they have more laboratory experience and where they interact with faculty at student events. Overall, the authors recommend that programs seeking to increase student satisfaction and the number of students attending graduate school should focus faculty attention on undergraduates, expand experiential learning opportunities, improve academic advising, and encourage more frequent, informal student-faculty interactions.

Discussion Questions

  1. This article demonstrated that several factors that are correlated with student success are characteristic of universities with a greater focus on undergraduate students. What do you make of this finding? Are smaller, teaching-focused universities better for undergraduate student achievement?
  2. What can professors at research-focused institutions do to increase the focus on and success of undergraduate psychology students? What will it take for professors to spend more time engaging with and caring about undergraduates? What need to change and/or needs to be emphasize in order to make undergraduate education a priority?
  3. At larger universities, the emphasis tends to be on research and graduate training rather than undergraduate achievement. Is it possible for an institution to focus on research, graduate training, and undergraduate success equally? Why or why not? What can you do as a future faculty member to make sure undergraduate success is a priority?

Review, Revise, and Resubmit: the Effects of Self-Critique, Peer Review, and Instructor Feedback on Student Writing

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Submitted by Stephen Molitor Molitor

Article Reference

Stellmack, M. A., Keenan, N. K., Sandidge, R. R., Sippl, A. L., & Konheim-Kalkstein, Y. L. (2012). Review, revise, and resubmit: the effects of self-critique, peer review, and instructor feedback on student writing. Teaching of Psychology, 39, 235-244.

Article DOI

0.1177/0098628312456589

Summary of Article

Writing assignments are a common tool used to evaluate learning in undergraduate psychology courses. In an attempt to improve students’ writing skills, many courses have adopted the practice of providing feedback on an initial draft of a writing assignment before students complete a final draft. However, the effectiveness of this strategy has never been empirically tested. The research team examined papers from students who enrolled and completed an introductory psychological research methods course. A series of three experiments were conducted comparing the change in scores (based on the scores of blind graders) between first and second drafts of papers that had received different forms of feedback.

In Experiment 1, graders evaluated 80 first drafts, as well as second drafts that had been either self-revised or had received peer feedback. Overall, approximately 50% of the sample saw improved scores from the first to the second draft, although the effect was small and no difference was observed between self-review and peer feedback. In Experiment 2, blind graders evaluated first and second drafts from 48 students who received feedback on the first draft from their lab instructors. The results indicated that 57% of students’ scores increased from the first draft to the second, although the effect was again small. Further, when comparing the blind rater scores to the actual scores given by lab instructors, the scores of lab instructors averaged a greater change from the first to the second draft than the scores from the blind graders. To test whether these results were due to instructor bias, Experiment 3 compared the initial scores of first and second drafts given by instructors to scores given to the same drafts by the same instructors two years later. The results of this experiment indicated that the regarded drafts received lower scores than when the drafts were initially graded. Based on the collection of results, the authors concluded that receiving feedback on written work provides limited benefits for undergraduate students. The authors also concluded that the score gains from feedback are not influenced by the source of the feedback, and that gains from a first to a second draft may be due to grader perceptions, rather than a true indication of an improved written product.

Discussion Questions

  1. How should peer feedback be used in a classroom setting (if at all?) Are there non-writing benefits that may be gained from peer feedback?
  2. How can instructors maximize the benefit of their feedback on students’ written work to ensure that writing skills are being objectively improved and not simply formed to match a specific instructor’s preferences or to improve the grade for a specific assignment?
  3. Outside of instructor or peer feedback, what other strategies can be implemented in a classroom format to improve students’ writing skills?