|Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R)
Indiana State University
Course Title: General Psychology
Status: This project was part of Round I of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R) program, 2007 – 2008. Participants conducted a pilot of their redesign plans in fall 2007. In the C2R program, NCAT’s role was to introduce the course redesign methodology to participating institutions, assist them in developing project plans and work with them through the pilot period. NCAT was not involved in full implementation; consequently, the project’s status beyond the pilot period is unknown. For more information, contact the project contact listed above.
Indiana State University (ISU) plans to redesign its General Psychology course. The course enrolls ~1000 students annually in about 27 sections of ~30 to 45 students each. General Psychology, taught primarily by graduate students in a traditional lecture format, meets three hours a week.
Teaching numerous sections with up to eight different graduate instructors during any given semester presents problems of course drift and inconsistency of the material covered. The majority of graduate students in ISU's doctoral program do not aspire to teach in the future, raising concerns about their overall level of preparedness and commitment to quality instruction. Faculty are also concerned that by having graduate students teach this course, students may not develop any significant connection to the Psychology Department or psychology major that might have developed with a faculty instructor. General Psychology's DFW rate is 15% and if the number of students earning a D in the course is factored into these figures, the percentage increases to 24% of the students.
ISU plans to use the Supplemental Model in the redesigned course. The weekly number of lectures will be reduced to two and taught by full-time faculty rather than graduate instructors. Undergraduate peer tutors, supervised by a graduate assistant, will lead a weekly 50 minute discussion/activity session. Students will be required to bring laptops to lectures and internet-based activities will be used to enhance the lectures. Students will complete mastery quizzes each week, and those students who do not complete them at a satisfactory level (a C or better) will be identified and counseled regarding ways to improve their performance.
The redesigned General Psychology course will enhance learning outcomes for students in several ways. Course content will be consistent across sections of the course and full-time faculty will provide all instruction. Students will have increased interaction with competent peer leaders as well as early feedback and individual attention on any learning problems that are identified. The use of master quizzes will promote increased time spent on the material outside of class. The early identification of students who are performing poorly will allow for earlier intervention and increased chances of successful learning outcomes.
A variety of assessment methods will be used to compare student-learning outcomes. Common content items will be developed and used on exams in both the traditional and redesigned sections of the course. Written critical thinking exercises will also be completed by students in both section formats and compared. Finally, questions about overall satisfaction with the course and general interest in psychology will be administered to all students.
The redesigned course will reduce instructional costs by decreasing the number of sections from 27 to 6 and increasing section size from ~35 to ~200 students each. Undergraduate peer leaders will be used at no cost as they will receive course credit for their work. The number of students who fail or drop the course will be reduced, resulting in a reduction of the number of students who must repeat the course. As a result, the cost-per-student will be lower, moving from $101 to $73, an estimated cost savings of approximately 28%.
Students in the redesigned course who completed the final exam averaged 87% as contrasted with an average score of 81% by students in the traditional section. Students in both redesigned and traditional sections completed a nine-item quiz” that was embedded within a questionnaire given during the last week of classes covering topics discussed throughout the course. Students in the redesigned sections scored 12% higher (M = 5.16), on average, than did students in traditional sections (M = 4.07). Official grade records show that slightly more students in traditional sections received grades of F or withdrew (W) from the course (18.5%) than did students in the redesigned sections (12.4%), and this difference approached significance.
Cost savings were anticipated through greater instructional efficiency associated with larger course sections and use of undergraduate peer leaders to run discussion groups.
Key indicators are trending appropriately. Fewer sections were offered in fall 2007 (N = 10) than fall 2006 (N = 15), and fewer graduate students were deployed to teach them in fall 2007 (N = 6) than in fall 2006 (N = 8). The average section size has increased from 48 students to 65 students.
These results have been shared with department faculty who expressed support for continued implementation and evaluation. An additional faculty member has been recruited to teach a large, redesigned section of General Psychology in fall 2008.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?
Mastery quizzing. The redesign included the incorporation of mastery quizzes. Students received immediate feedback on performance (right or wrong, but not the correct answer). Students could take quizzes up to three times for grade improvement. Forty-five percent of students in the redesigned sections identified the quizzes and tests as the “best liked” feature of the course.
Personal response system (PRS). The redesigned course included use of a “virtual PRS” system on students’ university-required laptops. Active participation in the class was facilitated through in-class polling.
Quick quizzes. Each redesigned section began with students logging in to Blackboard to complete a quick, two-minute quiz on the assigned readings.
Publisher’s resources. The redesign included introducing students to learning materials to enhance their understanding available on the publisher’s web site. Anecdotally, students reported relatively little use of this material, perhaps because there was no “point” value attached to it.
Discussions. To provide students the opportunity to engage in discussion about the material, one hour of lecture each week was replaced with participation in a small-group discussion section. However, even in the small-group setting, the mostly first-semester freshmen in the class were not always responsive, and it has sometimes become a review session for students having difficulty.
Cost Reduction Techniques
What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?
Increased section size. The General Psychology redesign achieved increased instructional efficiency through larger sections taught by fewer instructors.
Reduced instructional time. Direct instruction by faculty has been reduced from three to two lecture hours per week supplemented with online resources, mastery quizzing, and participation in discussion groups.
Use of peer leaders. Although the original plan called for use of peer leaders” to run the discussion sections, this has not yet been implemented. Use of undergraduate peer leaders rather than graduate students is expected to further reduce instructional costs of the course. This is a final step in the implementation process).
What implementation issues were most important?
Laptops. Building on the university’s laptop initiative, faculty used a laptop platform for many in-class activities including polling, quizzing and other demonstrations. Although this saved students the cost of purchasing a separate clicker, there were implementation issues relating to assuring enough access points for the large class and equipment failures and malfunctions. There were also problems assuring students access to a laptop and appropriate use of their laptops in the class. Faculty are considering whether to sustain this feature.
Discussion sections. Several implementation issues were related to the creation of discussion sections. Logistic issues included obtaining approval to create the sections and assuring that students enrolled in the redesign sections also enrolled in a discussion section and that students enrolled in traditional sections did not.
Scheduling. Faculty in many programs whose students take General Psychology as a cognate or to meet general education requirements have raised concern about the reduced number of sections of the class and corresponding reduction in time slots for students to select from. Both conversation and attention to enrollment requirements of other disciplines is needed.
Internal support. Although departmental faculty supported the redesign trial, graduate students have expressed concern about its broader implementation. Concerns center around potential loss of assistantships as well reduced opportunities to gain teaching experience.