Review of: Strengthening introductory psychology: A new model for teaching the introductory course

Gurung, R. R., Hackathorn, J., Enns, C., Frantz, S., Cacioppo, J. T., Loop, T., & Freeman, J. E. (2016). Strengthening introductory psychology: A new model for teaching the introductory course. American Psychologist, 71(2), 112-124. doi:10.1037/a0040012

This article brings into discussion a new model for teaching introductory Psych classes at college campuses. As of right now there is not one specific model for how to teach the basic psych classes and this creates challenges for teachers. In order to create a more sustainable way to teach introductory psychology classes this article discusses the benefits to incorporating three key aspects: (a) scientific foundations, (b) 5 major domains or pillars of knowledge (biological, cognitive, developmental, social and personality, and mental and physical health), and (c) cross-cutting themes relevant to all domains. With these three major components they suggest not going into exhaustive detail in a one semester course because it would be too much information. The argument for this model is that it will help for majors and nonmajors to see what will come up later if/when they pursue the major. This article also argues for having a national standardized test to make sure that all courses are similar.

There are aspects that I agree with in this article along with areas that I am against. I love the idea of using introductory psych classes as a preview into the rest of the major. This is a good model because it does not go into too much depth for those that are not interested in psychology and are just taking it for GE requirements, but it also allows psychology majors to get excited for future classes as well as exposing them to the major sections of psychology to help them decide which domain they want to focus on. The first aspect that I disagree with is that of requiring the classes to be the same all over the country. There are so many times when teachers need to adapt to their student make up and that requires freedom. There are so many types of people and the way they all learn can all be different, teachers need to be able to recognize what their students need and adapt their teaching styles. By putting restrictions on how and what a teacher is supposed to teach takes away the ability for a teacher to give students what they might need. Not only are students all different, but the times are different. Every year comes with different world events, political debates, natural disasters, etc. and it is always more beneficial for students when courses are able to be applied to real life. I know that for me I would get much more out of a intro psych class that spent extra time talking about human nature and how one is inclined or not inclined to help the refugees in other countries. When teachers have more freedom to discuss materials that they feel are important to the types of students and to the times, students are able to gain so much more out of a class. Another problem I have with this article is the idea of having a national test to make sure that everyone is learning the same thing. The national test fits right along with my argument of taking away teacher freedom, but it also makes it hard on students who don’t have the greatest teachers and are tested on things that were not adequately explained. In addition, students learn teaching styles after a certain amount of time in a class and can figure out what a teacher thinks is important, and by giving a test not created by a professor it throws a curveball at the students and puts them at a disadvantage. Overall, I feel that introductory psychology classes can be improved by having a more structured preview model like the one proposed, but we need to remember the fundamentals of teaching and not get lost in the “ideals” and focus on the reality of student and situational differences.

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