Student learning outcomes for Introductory Psychology.

An American Psychological Association working group (the Introductory Psychology Initiative) developed a set of “student learning objectives” for college introductory psychology classes. I’m interested in this list: it’s tough to define exactly what skills students should learn during psychology classes. I admire the work this group did. Below are the skills the group defined (in italics) and a few comments from me.

Identify basic concepts and research findings, and give examples of psychology’s integrative themes.
~ Psychological science relies on empirical evidence adapting as new data develop.
~ Psychology explains general principles that govern behavior, while recognizing individual differences.
~ Psychological, biological, social, and cultural factors influence mental processes and behavior.
~ Our perceptions filter experience of the world through an imperfect personal lens.
~ Applying psychological principles can change our lives in positive ways.

Rob thoughts: I think I love the “integrative themes.” It will be REALLY interesting to see how these themes play out in an AP course. I bet textbook authors could have a lot of fun integrating them into different units. And if College Board wants to change the writing tasks on the AP Psychology test into something different, these themes could be used to develop great writing prompts.

I’m a little confused by the first statement “Identify basic concepts and research findings, and give examples of psychology’s integrative themes.” Both parts of that sentence make sense, but I’m confused about why they are smooshed together? I’m thinking of them as two separate SLOs – one about identifying content, and one about giving examples of integrative themes. Is that how you think about it? Am I missing something?

Apply psychological principles to everyday life.
Rob thoughts: Love it! Always been one of the goals of every great AP and Introductory Psych teacher and one of the best things about our class.

Draw appropriate, logical, and objective conclusions about behavior and mental processes from empirical evidence.
Rob thoughts: This seems like the “research methods” SLO to me, and I think that’s a good idea. I like the phrasing – “appropriate, logical, and objective” are a great way to express the scientific world view. Nice!

Evaluate misconceptions or erroneous behavioral claims based on evidence from psychological science.
Rob thoughts: This one feels like connected to (or an extension of, maybe?) the skill described above. I like the inclusion of the idea of that students should be able to draw appropriate conclusions AND spot bad/unsupported conclusions when they see them. Maybe the writing tasks on the AP Psychology test could evolve into one essay about one or more of the integrative themes, and the other one could be about drawing conclusions from research and/or critiquing conclusions with flaws. Hmm.

Design, conduct, or evaluate basic psychological research.
Rob thoughts: The first part of this skill makes total sense to me. Designing and conducting research is very different from the previous SLOs. But the “evaluate” part seems really similar to the two SLOs above? There’s a lot of overlap, right?

Describe ethical principles that guide psychologists in research and therapy.
Rob thoughts: Sounds like a good idea. Nice way to combine thinking about the experimental and clinical worlds of psychology. This one seems “smaller” than the others, maybe?

UPDATE: Danae Hudson pointed out that the “Course Design Suggestion” and “Integrative Themes Assignment” might help teachers figure out how the SLOs work together and across the content of the course. Thanks Danae!

3 thoughts on “Student learning outcomes for Introductory Psychology.

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