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Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R)

New York Institute of Technology

Course Title: Introduction to Psychology
Redesign Coordinator: Spencer Turkel

Status: This project was part of Round II of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R) program, 2008 – 2009. Participants conducted a pilot of their redesign plans in fall 2008. 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.

Project Abstract
Progress Report (as of 3/1/09)

Project Abstract

New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) plans to redesign Introduction to Psychology, which enrolls ~835 students annually. The course is taught in a traditional lecture format by both full-time and adjunct faculty on the Manhattan and Old Westbury campuses. Approximately 17 sections, each meeting twice a week, are offered each year.

The traditional course faces two academic problems. The first is a lack of consistency. All faculty use the same textbook, but teaching styles, course requirements and course content vary from section to section. NYIT plans to standardize course outcomes, objectives and requirements for all students. The second problem is that the lecture format creates a passive learning environment in which there is only minimal student participation. Although the traditional format includes some interactive, online experiences, it does not sufficiently engage students.

NYIT will redesign the course, using the Supplemental Model to create an active learning environment. NYIT will add online interactive labs and assignments that students will complete, either individually or in groups, prior to class. Students will also complete online tutorials and quizzes to be submitted for review by peer mentors and tutors when appropriate. Peer mentors will also lead review sessions, assist with small groups during class, help grade assignments and proctor exams.

Quality will be enhanced by standardizing content, requirements and delivery across sections, ensuring that all students have the same learning experience. The redesign will engage students as active learners, teaching them to apply theoretical concepts in hands-on-demonstrations. The online activities prior to class will enable the instructor to scale down the direct lecture time and incorporate activities such as discussion sessions and collaborative work by students in groups. Students will receive immediate feedback on their online work, and their progress will be monitored. If they encounter problems, they will be scheduled for a review session where they will receive assistance from a peer tutor or the preceptor. The team hopes that the active learning environment will appeal to a broader range of students, thus increasing the number of psychology majors, and that the course will serve as a model for other introductory courses in the department and across the institution.

The impact of the course redesign on learning outcomes will be assessed by comparing performance data from two parallel sections, one traditional and one redesigned. Final exam grades, common content items selected from three semester tests and overall final course grades will be compared. In addition, a survey that assesses students’ expectations of the course, interest level in the topic and the likeliness of enrolling in additional psychology courses will be administered to students in both sections on the first and last day of class.

Cost savings will be generated by reducing the number of sections from 17 to 10. Section size at Old Westbury will increase from ~80 to ~110 and at the Manhattan campus from between 20 and 49 to ~60 students. The number of adjuncts will be reduced from six to two. With the addition of peer mentors and a part-time preceptor to manage the peer mentors, the cost-per-student will decrease from $99 to $64, a 35% reduction.

Progress Report (as of 3/1/09)

The NYIT team compared performance data from one traditional and one redesigned section on three identical semester tests, final exam grades and overall course grades. Students in the redesigned section performed the same as students in the traditional section on the semester tests and the final exam. The final grade distribution did not differ significantly between the traditional and redesigned sections.

Since NYIT did not obtain the increases in student learning that they anticipated, the team plans to make changes to the redesign during summer 2009 and re-pilot during the fall 2009 semester. The team then plans to implement the full redesign on the Old Westbury campus during the spring 2010 semester and on the Manhattan campus during the fall 2010 semester.

Lessons Learned

Pedagogical Improvement Techniques

In-class activities and demonstrations. The redesign plan included some type of in-class activity or demonstration in which students would be active participants for each class meeting. In the past, the team found that engaging students in active learning could be challenging due to their reservations about participating in a large class. However, implementing the redesign strategy from the first day of class eased students' fears. The activities held in class kept students engaged and actively participating.

Mastery quizzes. Students were required to complete 10 online quiz questions prior to the discussion of a new class topic. If students did not answer 80% of the material correctly, they received email from their assigned peer mentor asking them to attend a review session. Administering the mastery quizzes prior to class gave students more motivation to read before coming to class.

PsychInteractive software. Study materials and interactive resources offered through the publisher (McGraw-Hill) were available to students via Blackboard. The team selected this software for its user-friendliness and abundance of active learning activities.

Peer mentors. The addition of four peer mentors had a positive impact on the students and played a vital role in the pilot phase of the redesign. Peer mentors closely monitored student progress and conducted review sessions as well as small group discussions weekly. When meeting in small groups with their peer mentors, students expressed their interest in the topic as well as their overall enjoyment of the engaging nature of the course. Mentors were also available to tutor students and conduct review sessions.

Blackboard’s discussion board. Students used Blackboard’s discussion board to pose questions to each other as well as to the instructor and peer mentors.

Cost Reduction Techniques

Reducing the number of sections. The team plans to generate cost savings by reducing the number of sections from 17 to 10, increasing section size and reducing the number of adjuncts when the redesign is fully implemented by spring 2010.

Implementation Issues

Monitoring student progress on mastery quizzes. Although students were contacted by their peer mentors if they scored below an 80% on a mastery quiz, they were not required to attend a review session; it was merely suggested. The team now believes that it would be best to require those students to attend review sessions.

Preceptor. The redesign created a new position of preceptor, who was to supervise the peer mentors. The preceptor who was identified declined the position two weeks prior to the start of the semester, so the peer mentors had to take on greater responsibility. The team believes that the course will run more smoothly with the addition of a preceptor.



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