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Eastern Washington University

Course Title: Introductory Psychology
Contact: Bill Williams

Status: This project originated as part of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Roadmap to Redesign (R2R) program, 2003 – 2006, and was successfully completed.

Descriptive Materials: In addition to the project description below, links for this project include a final project report, which describes the impact of the redesign on student learning and student retention; final cost savings achieved; techniques that most contributed to improved learning and reduced costs; and, an assessment of future sustainability.

Project Plan:
Eastern Washington University plans to redesign its Introductory Psychology course. The course is presently taught as a five-credit lecture course by a mix of instructors at all ranks. Enrollments are growing. Ten sections of approximately 98 students each are expected for the 2004–2005 academic year. The course meets five times per week for 11 weeks (quarter system).

The large classes in Introductory Psychology make it difficult to focus on the development of critical thinking and communication skills. The lecture format places students in a passive learning role, and there is little time for meaningful discussion among students. Moreover, legislative funding has not kept up with enrollment demand so faculty teaching loads are high. The faculty need release time for other expected professional activities such as research, grant writing, and curriculum development.

Eastern Washington plans to use the Replacement Model in the redesigned course. Student learning will be improved by using technology to enhance lecture delivery, to engage students in active learning, and to provide opportunities for self-assessment. Class size will increase to 245 students, and the number of sections will decrease to four per year. There will be three lectures per week instead of five. Students will be required to attend a small seminar meeting every week (~12 students each). Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and undergraduate mentors will lead twenty scheduled seminar discussions per week. These small group discussions will facilitate the development of critical thinking and communication skills. Weekly online mastery quizzes will supplement bi-weekly in-class exams.

Department faculty will decide on a common set of assessment objectives for Introductory Psychology. A set of test items corresponding to these common course objectives will be developed for inclusion on all final examinations administered in both the traditional sections (fall 2004 baseline) and the redesigned sections (winter 2005 and spring 2005 pilots). Performance on these questions will be used to compare the effectiveness of the redesigned course. In addition, students in all sections will be surveyed to determine the level of student satisfaction, and changes in student attendance and retention will be measured. In addition, the effectiveness of small discussion groups will be assessed using pre-test, post-test comparisons with specific emphasis on improvements in communication skills.

The operational cost of the course will be reduced by decreasing the number of sections from ten to four per year and increasing the section size from 98 students to 245 students per section; decreasing the number of lectures delivered by faculty from five per week to three per week; decreasing the number of GTAs from five per year to four per year; and decreasing the number of in-class exams from eleven per term to six per term. The cumulative impact of these efficiencies will be to reduce the cost of course delivery from $100 per student to $40 per student, a 60% reduction. The cost may be reduced even further, to $35 per student, if full responsibility for teaching Introductory Psychology is eventually shifted to junior faculty.



Quick Links:

Roadmap to Redesign Main Page...