Tag Archives: faculty engagement

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?