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Windward Community College

Course Title: Introductory Psychology
Contact:
Michael Tom

Status: This project originated as part of a collaborative program between NCAT and the University of Hawaii System, 2004 – 2006. Due to a variety of factors, this project has not yet been completed. The project plan serves as a good example of how to think about redesigning a large-enrollment course. For more information, contact Hae Okimoto at hae@hawaii.edu or the project contact listed above.

Project Plan:
Windward CC (WCC) is redesigning Introductory Psychology, which enrolls 25 percent of its students and is typically WCC’s third highest enrolled course, enrolling 442 students annually in seven sections during the fall semester and six sections during the spring semester. The average drop, failure, and withdrawal (DFW) rate has been 20%. Introductory Psychology is generally one of the first college courses taken by students, and WCC believes that students' experiences in the course can significantly impact their subsequent academic success by shaping their attitudes toward learning, their study habits and their technical skills.

In the traditional format, Introductory Psychology has been taught by three instructors who use different textbooks, different assignments, different exams, and different teaching methods. Faculty productivity is lower than it could be due to the duplication of effort among the three instructors, the repetition of lectures in numerous sections, and the minimal use of labor-saving course management tools. Lack of consistency across sections results in significant variation in learning outcomes depending on which section a student enrolls in, and instructors of higher-level psychology courses find that students’ retention of content from the introductory course is generally low.

The primary goal of the WCC redesign is to improve learning outcomes by actively engaging students with course content in a variety of in-class and out-of-class activities, by providing students with frequent feedback on their mastery of course content, and by making individualized assistance readily available to students. Faculty will also prompt students to take responsibility for their own learning, to adopt effective study habits, and to develop computer and information literacy (CIL) skills that will be useful to them throughout their academic pursuits. Faculty expect an increase in student mastery and retention of course content, a lower DFW rate, and an improvement in students’ technology skills and attitudes toward learning.

Introductory Psychology will be redesigned using the Replacement Model, reducing lectures from two to one each week. The textbook will be supplemented with interactive online materials including repeatable low-stakes quizzes. These materials will be the primary mechanism for the presentation of course content, replacing most of the class time previously devoted to passive lectures. Instructors will lead one 75-minute discussion session each week to address learning problems identified through the low-stakes quizzes and to engage students in collaborative problem-solving and reflective applications of course content. In-class quizzes and polls will be conducted using a Classroom Response System to actively involve all students. The other 75-minute class period will be devoted to an unstructured study lab. Students averaging less than a B in the course will be required to attend the study lab, where they may study course materials independently, work in groups, or consult one-on-one with instructors.

WCC will pilot the Introductory Psychology redesign in fall 2005. Two instructors will each teach one traditional section and one redesigned section, and the learning outcomes in these parallel sections will be compared. Among the measures taken and compared will be the distribution of grades on common course exams, student demographics, pre- and post-surveys of CIL skills and attitudes toward learning, and DFW rates. Retention of Introductory Psychology subject matter will be measured by a pre-test conducted at the start of higher-level psychology courses.

WCC’s redesign plan will achieve cost savings by offering fewer sections to serve the same number of students annually. Instructors will gain time to serve additional students by significantly reducing the time spent developing and presenting lectures, and proctoring and hand-grading tests. Introductory Psychology class sizes will be increased from 35 seats in traditional sections to 55 seats in redesigned sections. The 13 traditional sections currently offered will be reduced to five traditional sections and five redesigned sections for a 23 percent reduction in course costs and an annual savings of $14,220.

 

 

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