Review of: Students can give psychology away: Oral presentations on YouTube

Emmerton, A.J. & Malouff, J.M. (2013). Students can give psychology away: Oral presentations on YouTube. Psychology Learning & Teaching 13(1), 38-42. doi: 10.2304/plat.2014.13.1.38

Class presentations are a part of almost every psychology course offered in universities today. These assignments offer many benefits to students, such as helping them think critically about course subject matter, allowing students to get experience giving presentations to their peers, and increasing students confidence in their own knowledge and public-speaking skills. Following this train of thought, a pair of professors at the University of New England in Australia decided to continue with the widely-used assignment of a class presentation, but decided to make the audience much more broad. They assigned their students to post videos to YouTube rather than having students present solely to the other students in the class. This was a very beneficial way to allow students to be able to prepare and deliver presentations, even if they were not in close proximity of the University (which 79% of students actually were not in this specific case).

The professors reported little to no technical error from their students in uploading the videos to YouTube. While this unconventional method of class presentations clearly presents unique challenges as compared with the orthodox way of doing things, it also has distinct advantages. The main advantage of this, as mentioned earlier, is that it allows students who are participating in online courses and may live far from campus to still prepare and deliver a presentation and thus reap the benefits of the assignment. According to questionnaires students filled out along with their presentation submissions, 77% of students felt the assignment was beneficial to improving their public speaking skills, 69% felt it helped them improve their public speaking confidence, and 81% felt that the assignment helped them improve their knowledge of the topic covered in the presentation. Additionally, these presentations could easily benefit the general public as well, allowing the general public access to the lecture material (which in this case was “Behavior Modification”).

While the authors assert that future psychology courses could also benefit from employing this strategy, it could depend on the group of students and the specific teaching situation. In my personal opinion, a YouTube video would not help me nearly as much as an actual speaking presentation would. A YouTube video can be erased and re-recorded any number of times until the author is satisfied with the content. In actual presentations, one is obviously not afforded this luxury, as he/she gets one opportunity to present the material and that is it. Orthodox presentations are in this way a good preparation for life after college, where research presentations as well as other work presentations are an almost eventual guarantee. This is the main problem I see with delivering presentations in this way.

That being said, there are definitely benefits to allowing students to present in this manner, the main ones having been mentioned by the authors in their article. YouTube presentations allow students a practical alternative when they are not able to physically be present in the classroom. Additionally, the YouTube videos become available to the public and are thus accessible for public benefit. And finally, these presentations may indeed help students with their presentation skills, but perhaps not nearly as much as an orthodox in-class presentation would.

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Review of: Team-based learning: The importance of attendance

Jakobsen, K.V., Marrs, S., & McIlreavy, M. (2014). Team-based learning: The importance of attendance. Psychology Learning & Teaching 13(1), 25-31. doi: 10.2304/plat.2014.13.1.25

In this research article, the authors examined previous findings that student performance (such as on examinations) is higher in team-based learning (TBL) classrooms as compared to normal lecture classrooms. They measured this by allowing a group of students (N=90) to self-select to one of two groups: the lecture group and the TBL group. These two classes were taught by, and assignments were graded by, the same professor, with extensive emphasis placed on controlling grading bias. The findings were that the TBL group scored significantly higher on exams and had much higher rates of class attendance. The higher attendance rate should not come as any surprise, since in TBL classrooms students are held more accountable for their attendance whereas in normal lecture classrooms, students often have more freedom to miss class at their own leisure without adverse resultant consequences (as was the case during this experiment).

The researchers then decided to control for attendance, since this could have been a confounding variable and could also have been the main reason for higher test scores, not the TBL environment itself. When attendance was controlled for, there was actually no significant difference between the test scores of the two groups. However, the authors concluded that there are many benefits to team-based learning classrooms, such as more time for students to discuss class material with their peers, as well as more time to use critical thinking to actively engage in course material. Additionally, the authors also concluded that the benefit of higher attendance levels is a very positive result, since the higher attendance rates lead to better understanding of subject material, which in turn leads to increased test scores and, theoretically, better subject mastery.

Having participated in TBL courses myself, I can attest to the heightened sense of responsibility for attending class when one knows that his/her teammates are counting on their presence. This, for me, led to higher attendance rates as well as better class preparation because I did not want to be the team member who had come to class unprepared. While personally I have nothing against normal lecture classes, I can definitely see the advantages to team-based learning classes that the authors mentioned, such as heightened attendance and increased time spent discussing and critically evaluating class material as compared to merely listening to an instructor deliver a lecture.

 

Review of: Psychology students’ understanding of the skill-based learning fostered through university assignments

Martini, T.S., Norton, C., Rail, A. (2015). Psychology students’ understanding of the skill-based learning fostered through university assignments. Teaching of Psychology 42(4), 335-338. doi: 10.1177/0098628315603182

This group of researchers undertook a study examining whether or not undergraduate psychology students felt their coursework was valuable in helping them develop skills necessary in the professional world. The researchers recruited a total of 195 first-year psychology undergraduates and a group of 141 third- and fourth-year psychology students and administered a survey to them asking about the effectiveness of classroom activities in helping them develop skills necessary for life after college. The main questions the students were asked regarded students’ understanding of the purpose of school assignments, as well naming a list of skills they felt their degree was helping them to acquire. The majority of the students surveyed said that they did not feel that coursework corresponded significantly with the development of skills necessary in the professional world.

While many students named skills they felt their major was helping them develop, answers were extremely varied and many students omitted skills that most people would consider essential for those graduating with a degree in psychology (e.g., community/global awareness, conducting research, and technical skills). The researchers were concerned with the perceived lack of student understanding as to why professors assigned specific tasks, as well as lack of student confidence that learning activities were beneficial to skill development. There was also some concern that very marketable and sought-after skills (such as research and technical skills) were on the whole omitted by students.

The researchers concluded that instructors need to help students understand how learning activities are intended to help them further their education, and what skills specific activities are meant to help students develop. The researchers’ specific concern is that when students seek to enter the workforce as college graduates, they will not know exactly which skills they have developed and how to market these skills to potential employers. The researchers suggest that faculty members could attempt to, with regularity, inform their students of the important skills their courses as a whole, as well as specific assignments, are intended to help students develop. Their main concern is not that students are not developing marketable and sought-after skills, but that students may not be aware of the skills they have acquired and thus not able to recognize them and put them into practice.

The authors of this study bring to light an important topic that many instructors may not even be aware of. It is possible, if not probable, that most faculty members place an emphasis in their courses on students developing certain skills and qualities as a result of having taken their course. However, do these instructors help students understand why these skills are important and how they will help them after the course is over? Additionally, do instructors accompany assignments with an explanation of how the assignment will contribute to the students’ learning? In my experience, most professors provide learning outcomes on a PowerPoint that is reviewed during the first day of classes for the semester, and then these learning outcomes are never mentioned again. This article makes me think that professors would do well to revisit these learning outcomes often and with specific assignments in mind, in order to emphasize to students the importance of coursework and the marketable skills they are acquiring for their life after college.

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.

Review of: Outside the classroom and beyond psychology: A citation analysis of the scientific influence of teaching activities

Tomcho, T. J., Foels, R., Walter, M. I., Yerkes, K., Brady, B., Erdman, M., & … Manry, A. (2015). Outside the classroom and beyond psychology: A citation analysis of the scientific influence of teaching activities. Teaching Of Psychology, 42(1), 5-13. doi:10.1177/0098628314562661

This article discusses how students may not be the only ones that benefit from the teaching activities published in Teaching of Psychology, and that that larger scientific literature is also benefiting. It is seen through the enhanced learning outcomes that students get a lot out of different activities and models that are published in the ToP, but now with this information being readily available it is having an effect even outside of the classroom. Authors have argued that now with the rise in interdisciplinary research “psychology researchers, and by extension psychology teaching researchers, are not just disseminating information to other psychologists but rather to a wider community of scientific scholars.” This article goes on to perform an examination of citation patterns can help to find the scientific community benifiting from the Psychology teaching activities.

This article portrays a very interesting aspect on the ideas of sharing information between disciplines. The world is full of divisions in knowledge, whether it be differing majors, careers, etc. But what people need to realize is that there are a lot of things that are interdisciplinary. There is much that can be learned by opening one’s mind to other branches of learning rather than just focusing solely on one discipline. Psychology specifically pertains to many aspects of life and there is much that other disciplines can learn from psychology. I feel that it is very important for people to incorporate all aspects of their lives in order to increase their ability in each area. Teaching techniques can be used in more than just the classroom as this article illustrates, and this should also be taken into account in our individual lives. Students should learn to apply what and how they learn about and from teaching activities in psychology classes to other classes as well as in their personal and relational lives. So many people try to separate their school life from their personal life, but I feel that there is much overlap that is not fully being taken advantage of. I love that this article showed that what is taught in psychology classes can be used for much more than creating better teaching habits, it really exemplifies the ability to incorporate things interdisciplinary as well as in one’s own personal life.

Review of: A Self-Correcting Approach to Multiple-Choice Exams Improves Students’ Learning

Gruhn D., Cheng Y. (2014). A self-correcting approach to multiple-choice exams improves students’ learning. Teaching of Psychology 41(4), pp. 335-339.

The validity and learning potential of multiple-choice exams has been long debated in the field of teaching psychology. Questions often arise as to ability of these assessments to accurately reveal true student learning. In addition, the simple knowledge that a multiple-choice exam will be offered often produces an important effect on the type of learning activities students will typically engage in outside of class. Expectations in these exams are usually factually based and motivate a student to memorize rather than conceptualize. Despite these challenges, multiple-choice exams present a number of benefits that are difficult to ignore for a realistic instructor. They are generally cheaper, easier to deliver and easier to grade. These advantages are all too enticing for a time and money starved professor. All this in mind, Gruhn and Cheng, the authors of the study: A self-correcting approach to multiple-choice exams improves students’ learning, sought out to determine if there is, in fact, a way to enhance multiple-choice assessments so as to overcome their aforementioned limitations. Citing previous research, the authors discussed a previously articulated means by which multiple-choice exams could be improved. The idea is based on student self-correction. Prior research has found that students who are given the opportunity to self-correct a multiple-choice exam are more familiar with the material and develop a deeper understanding of the material compared to those who did not self-correct. However, Gruhn and Cheng wanted to know two things that prior studies had not yet covered. The purpose of their study was to first, compare pre- and post-test scores of students who self-corrected and secondly, determine if this assessment method could be applied to courses with a large number of enrolled students (150+).

The methodology in this study was quite simple and straightforward. Two classes were recruited to participate in the study. Each class was expected to take three exam throughout the semester, one of which being the final exam. The classes differed in that one of the classes self-corrected for the first two exams while the second did not. Scores on the final exam for each class would be used for comparisons of effectiveness between the two assessment strategies. In addition, the authors explored relationships between exam types, number of corrections and improvement over the semester.

The results of the study heavily favored the self-correcting assessment strategy as a better means of promoting learning and better performance on later exams. The authors found that students in the self-correcting exam group improved performance beyond that of the control group from one exam to the next. In other words, as each exam was administered, the self-correcting exam group continuously did better and better than the control group with the best performance being on the final exam. Gruhn and Cheng also found that students in the self-correcting group tended to learn more and make greater improvements the more corrections they needed to perform. This relationship suggests that the self-correcting procedure may be the means by which learning is achieved in this strategy. So, the more time a student spends with the material and the process of changing incorrect answers to correct answers appears to have a significant effect on deep learning and later performance.

Exploring new ways to enhance learning and assessment techniques should be a focus of teachers in all fields of academia. Some assessment strategies in the past have emerged, I believe, simply out of interest of time and money constraints. Ask most teachers which exam type they think is most beneficial to a student and they will likely suggest anything except multiple-choice exams. However, as mentioned previously, the draws of this method are simply difficult to pass up. The research performed by Gruhn and Cheng provides, perhaps, a happy medium of sorts. The results suggest that although some teaching or assessment strategies may lack in effectiveness, we should not ignore the potential opportunity of improving these strategies towards something that is indeed effective. The self-correcting theory discussed in this article suggests that multiple-choice exams may yet have hope in the realm of academia. Though I would imagine many instructors would still admit that other assessment types are still more productive, this move to enhance multiple-choice exams shows some promise and should be carefully considered.