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Psychology: Undergraduate Programs

Overview: 

Students who graduate with an undergraduate degree from the Department of Psychology will demonstrate competency in 9 learning goals and outcomes adapted from the American Psychological Association Guidelines for the Undergraduate Major in Psychology (2007). Assessment of progress toward these goals includes evaluation of student learning both developmentally and at the completion of the major.

 

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

I. Knowledge, Skills, and Values Consistent With the Science and Application of Psychology  

Goal 1:  Knowledge Base of Psychology

            Students will learn the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, empirical findings, and historical trends in psychology.  They will demonstrate broad knowledge in three concentrations: (1) Clinical Psychology, (2) Social/Personality Psychology, and (3) Cognitive and Neuroscience, and the ability to use the concepts, language, and major theories of the discipline to account for psychological phenomena. 

Goal 2:  Research Methods in Psychology

            Students will develop the ability to apply basic research methods in psychology, including research design, data analysis, and interpretation.  

Goal 3:  Critical Thinking Skills in Psychology

            Students will develop the ability to use critical and creative thinking, skeptical inquiry, and, when possible, the scientific approach to solve problems related to behavior and mental processes.  

Goal 4:  Application of Psychology

            Students will learn to apply psychological principles to understand and solve personal, social, and organizational issues.  

Goal 5:  Values in Psychology

            Students will develop an appreciation of empirical evidence and tolerance of ambiguity. They will understand the importance of ethical behavior and reflect other values that are the underpinnings of psychology as a science.  

II. Knowledge, Skills, and Values Consistent With Liberal Arts Education in Psychology  

Goal 6:  Communication Skills

            Students will develop the ability to communicate effectively in writing, and during group discussion, debate, and collaboration. 

Goal 7:  Sociocultural and International Awareness

            Students will develop the ability to recognize, understand, and respect the complexity of sociocultural and international diversity.  

Goal 8:  Personal Development

            Students will develop insight into their own and others’ behavior and mental processes and apply effective strategies for self-management and self-improvement.   

Goal 9:  Career Planning and Development

            Students will emerge with realistic ideas about how to implement their psychological knowledge, skills, and values in occupational pursuits across a variety of settings.

Assessment Activities: 

The Psychology Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC) works with the faculty to develop measures of the above learning outcomes.  One component of the assessment measures the knowledge base of our graduating seniors each year by asking them to complete a short quiz of the core concepts in the three central concentrations in our major:  Clinical Psychology, Social/Personality Psychology, and Cognition and Neural Systems (CNS).  Another component surveys student self-perceptions of how well their experience in the Psychology major helped them reach the goals for the degree.  The UCC collects and analyzes the data, discusses potential changes in the curriculum, presents the results to the faculty for feedback, and makes recommendations for changes in the curriculum as needed.

Assessment Findings: 

I. Knowledge, Skills, and Values Consistent With the Science and Application of Psychology  

Goal 1:  Knowledge Base of Psychology

            To measure understanding of core concepts in each of the three concentrations, graduating seniors complete a 15- item multiple choice quiz when they complete our senior exit survey.  The table below shows the average percentage of the core concepts that graduating seniors correctly identify in each concentration when they complete the senior exit survey:

 

 

 

 

Psychology Core Content

Academic Year

N

Clinical

Social/Personality

CNS

2011-12

339

79%

79%

53%

2012-13

412

81%

78%

50%

2013-14

414

81%

77%

59%

2014-15

376

85%

81%

58%

2015-16

672

84%

81%

60%

Avg

 

82%

79%

56%

               

            The results show that from 2011-2016, graduating seniors correctly identify approximately 80% of the core concepts from Clinical and Social/Personality Psychology.  In contrast, they correctly identified approximately 60% of the core concepts from the CNS concentration.  This could reflect the relatively wider breadth of the area, which includes courses in cognition, neuroscience, and child development.

            We also compared performance on the core knowledge measure with graduating seniors against frosh students enrolled in the lower division courses, 2011-12:

Psychology Core Content:

Frosh

(N = 722)

Seniors

(N = 339)

Clinical

49%

79%

Social/Personality

48%

79%

CNS

37%

53%

            Our graduating seniors perform better than frosh students enrolled in the lower division courses on the core concepts assessment, indicating that exposure to the upper division courses increases their knowledge of the core content across the major concentrations.

            Finally, the percentage of graduating seniors who report that the lower division Psychology courses prepared them extremely well or very well for the upper division Psychology courses:

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

54%

58%

51%

52%

53%

 

Goal 2:  Research Methods in Psychology

            Percentage of graduating seniors who report that their study of Psychology at the University of Arizona contributed greatly or very much to their understanding of basic research methods in psychology, including research design, data analysis, and interpretation:

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

71.3%

69.4%

68.1%

NA*

NA*

            *The question about research methods inadvertently did not transfer when we moved the survey to a new electronic platform in 2015.  We have inserted it into the 2016-17 survey and will update the report for the APR.

Goal 3:  Critical Thinking Skills in Psychology

            Percentage of graduating seniors who report that their Psychology courses at the University of Arizona contributed greatly or very much to their ability to critically evaluate what they read in the popular press and scientific/professional publications.

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

65%

68%

72%

69%

67%

Goal 4:  Application of Psychology

            Percentage of graduating seniors who report that their study of Psychology at the University of Arizona contributed greatly or very much to their ability to apply psychological principles to understand and solve personal, social, and organizational issues.

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

73%

74%

78%

76%

77%

Goal 5:  Values in Psychology

            100% of our majors successfully complete CITI standardized training modules in the ethical treatment of humans and animals in psychological research when they complete the required lower division course in research methodology (Psych 290A).  Our students further enhance their understanding and appreciation of the values in Psychology when they complete a course on ethics (Psych 486A) and complete an independent study, directed research, honors thesis, or a 400-level course in the major. 

II. Knowledge, Skills, and Values Consistent With Liberal Arts Education in Psychology  

Goal 6:  Communication Skills

            Percentage of graduating seniors who reported that their Psychology courses at the University of Arizona contributed greatly or very much to their overall (scientific) writing ability.

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

35%

47%

48%

46%

44%

Goal 7:  Sociocultural and International Awareness

            Percentage of graduating seniors who report that their study of Psychology at the University of Arizona contributed greatly or very much to their ability to recognize, understand, and respect the complexity of sociocultural and international diversity.

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

70%

72%

77%

72%

74%

Goal 8:  Personal Development

            Percentage of graduating seniors who report that their study of Psychology at the University of Arizona greatly or very much helped them to develop insight into their own behavior and mental processes and apply effective strategies for self-management and self-improvement.

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

75%

76%

77%

78%

76%

Goal 9:  Career Planning and Development

            Percentage of graduating seniors who report that between 75% and 100% of what they learned in their Psychology courses was useful to them personally and occupationally.

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

71%

70%

75%

77%

76%

            Percentage of graduating seniors who report that their study in Psychology at the University of Arizona prepared them exceptionally or very well for future employment or further education.

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

54%

57%

58%

60%

57%

            Percentage of graduating seniors who report that they are satisfied or very satisfied with the range of upper division Psychology courses that suited their interests and career goals.

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

78%

82%

82%

82%

83%

 

Change in Response to Findings: 

2011:  Restructuring the Psychology major to better fit our learning goals

            Based on the analyses of the undergraduate curriculum in the 2011 APR report, the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC) recommended that the department restructure the major in Psychology to better reflect the research and teaching expertise of our faculty, which determines our curriculum learning objectives.  Specifically, we changed the core requirements in the major from taking 12 units across 2 concentrations (Cognition and Neural Systems and Individual and Social Processes) to taking 9 total units across 3 concentrations (Cognition and Neural Systems, Clinical Psychology, and Social-Personality Psychology).  This change increased the breadth of courses that students could take to complete the major and allowed us to adopt and measure the learning outcomes described above. 

2013:  Revised the research methods courses

            The previous requirement for research methods for undergraduate psychology majors was to complete PSY 290a (a 3-credit methods lecture) and concurrently complete PSY 297a (a 3-credit online research methods lab).  Over the years, this 6-unit requirement created a bottleneck for students to progress through the major, with many waiting up to one year to complete the two courses.  Furthermore, based on senior exit survey data, it was clear that the producer-based focus in methods was not meeting the majority of our students’ needs, given that only about 30% of psychology majors go on to be researchers (only about 15-20% go on to grad school in psychology).  In addition, our arrangement with the Arizona Articulation Transfer Taskforce (ATF) requires that we allow students to substitute a 3-unit course in methods at a community college for our 6-unit course.  The ATF asked that we align ourselves with ASU and NAU, who do not have a 6-unit requirement, to better serve transfer students.  Thus, the 6-unit methods requirement was difficult to staff, consumed valuable resources, did not meet the career goals of most our students, and created problems for transfer students.  We decided that we would better serve both our students and the state of Arizona if we focused on enhancing our students’ ability to critically evaluate the scientific information with which they are continually presented, rather than assuming that these skills would be acquired as they follow a program meant to teach them to produce scientific data.  The department made the following changes:

1.  Changed the lower division requirement from 6 units of methods (Psy 290a & 297a) to 3 units (Psy 290a). 

2.  Changed the focus of PSY 290a from a producer-based approach to research methods to a consumer-based approach.  We eliminated the online laboratory course but maintained the large enrollment each semester.  This meets the needs for all majors to understand and critically evaluate research evidence.

3.  Created an upper-division, 3-credit methods course that is an elective class for those students who are interested in learning to execute research.  This course meets the needs of honors and non-honors students who would like to go on to graduate or professional school where they will be able to conduct their own research.   

2015:  Introduced a new major in Psychological Science

            From 2011-15, three of the learning outcome findings above suggest that the major in Psychology was meeting its outcomes for only 50-60% of our students.  For example, approximately 50% of our graduating seniors said that the lower division courses prepared them for the upper division courses, that the courses improved their writing ability, and that the major prepared them for future employment or further education.  Digging deeper into these findings from the senior survey revealed that the students who major in Psychology constitute two groups: Those students who seek a career in research and science (e.g., PhDs in the Social Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, Business, Education), and those who seek a non-research career for which they need to translate practical knowledge about psychology (e.g., Social Work, Counseling, Health Care, Law Enforcement, Teaching, Human Resources, Marketing, Sales, Retail).  The numbers above reflect the fact that the psychology major was not fully meeting the needs of either group; it provided too much training in conducting research for those who do not want to pursue a research career, and it provided too little training in conducting research for those who wish to pursue a career in science.  The decision was made to revise the major to better meet the educational and career goals of each group of students. 

            In response, the department has implemented a new research-intensive major in Psychological Science to compliment our existing major in Psychology.  The BS in Psychological Science degree emphasizes critical thinking and analytic and quantitative skills involved in psychological research to prepare students for graduate or advanced study.  The Psychological Science major is similar to programs offered at ASU, UT Austin and the University of Washington that include intensive upper division laboratory-based courses in advanced methods and statistics, smaller in-depth seminar courses at the 400-level, and require hands-on independent laboratory research coursework.  The BA in Psychology degree is similar to the previous major with the exception that courses now emphasize the translation of theory and research to addressing real-world problems, and students will have the opportunity for more hands-on experience in the application of Psychology through internships throughout the state of Arizona.   The new majors are currently being implemented and learning outcomes specific to each degree are in development.

2016:  Improving the CNS core courses

            The results of the core knowledge assessment indicates that whereas our graduating seniors accurately recall approximately 81% of the core concepts from the courses in the Clinical and Social-Personality concentrations, they accurately recall only about 56% of the core concepts in the CNS concentration.  As a continuing response to this disparate outcome, the instructors in the CNS courses made several modifications each year, but the changes had little success in raising the performance of graduating seniors.  In 2016, the department decided to create a new core course for the CNS concentration, Psy 300 (Cognitive Neuroscience:  A guide to mind and brain), that introduces students to the basics of Cognitive Neuroscience in a more systematic manner.  New learning outcome questions were added to the senior exit survey for 2016-17 to measure the effectiveness of the new course.  These results of these data will be reported in the 2016-17 APR.

Updated date: Wed, 04/19/2017 - 08:24