Athabasca UniversityLearning and Technology, which opened in the fall of 2012. It is based on Richard Mayer's textbook by the same name. This is a cross-listed course available as an educational psychology (EDPY) or a psychology (PSYC) course.
This course focuses on one of the primary concerns of educational psychologists: the study of learning and instruction. It examines both how people learn traditional school subject matter and various instructional approaches designed to promote such learning. As the course is firmly grounded in empirical research, it presents research studies, their methods, and their results. As such, the course has a much more specific focus than introductory courses in educational psychology (e.g., EDPY 200) and should appeal to both psychology and education students, whereas most introductory educational psychology courses are designed primarily for the education students.
This course is a self-paced, distance education course. The course study guide and assignment descriptions are hosted online using Moodle. Quizzes can be completed online and the three assignments can be submitted using the online dropbox system. The first assignment asks students to produce a summary of some of the main ideas in chapter 1 of the textbook. This is to ensure that students have successfully understood the foundational ideas of the course and to provide the instructor an opportunity to assess students' study skills, albeit indirectly through the summary, and provide direction as needed. In the second assignment, students prepare a guide for parents/guardians about one topic discussed in the textbook with a goal of explaining the theory, research findings, and/or principles of instruction in a way that is clear, accessible, and comprehensible to a person who is not knowledgeable about educational psychology. For the last assignment students may choose to write a review of an empirical article about learning or develop a lesson plan for their own students using methods discussed in the text. The final exam consists of "short" essay questions that require students to explain concepts, theories, research findings, and instructional approaches clearly, using appropriate technical language and sufficient detail. Students will also be expected to analyze and discuss examples (i.e., simple cases) and produce their own examples to demonstrate understanding.
In this section, the course designs for the three courses I taught at McGill University’s Educational and Counselling Psychology Department beginning in 2001 are described. These courses were placed online using the university’s learning management system (WebCT). Besides the course syllabus and a calendar of topics and activities, the following elements were included: hyperlinks to the readings and multimedia content, instructor-authored content and presentation slides, assignments, previous exams and solutions, and a discussion forum. In lieu of a standard textbook, readings or a free online textbook (maintained by an academic) were assigned. The design of each course is described below.
This course was developed for graduate students who had no prior experience with statistics. For most students this would be their only statistics course. The goals of the course were to enable the students 1) to plan and conduct basic analyses using statistical software and 2) to meaningfully converse with individuals more expert in statistical analysis, in order to obtain assistance when the analyses required were beyond their knowledge.
To promote student engagement with the material each lesson began with a problem that students were asked to consider (e.g., how can one compare two groups based on a quantitative outcome variable). The instructor provided little direct assistance during this period of time (usually 10-15 minutes) but led a class discussion about the “discovered” solutions to the problem at the end. The main goal of this activity was to ensure that the students had sufficiently grappled with the problem, and understood it, before being told the solution in the lecture. Generally, many of the students were able to develop a reasonable solution to the problem. Following this activity a lecture was presented on the standard statistical approach to the problem (e.g., conducting a t-test).
After the lecture, students were directed to read over the textbook chapter and complete the lab assignment. These assignments described a real or realistic research context and provided a data set for analysis. Students were asked to describe the variables and the research question(s), and conduct statistical analyses using a statistical software package (i.e., SAS, or more recently StatCrunch.com – a highly accessible, web-enabled application). Students then answered a series of structured questions that assessed their understanding of core concepts and allowed them to practice reporting results in formal APA format.
Summative assessments consisted of a midterm and a final exam. These tests were based on realistic research studies. Students were asked to state the research question(s), describe the variables, analyze the data to answer the stated research question, interpret the results, and explain the results in both technical and non-technical language (i.e., in layman’s terms).
This course was developed for undergraduate students pursuing Bachelor of Education degrees. It is the only educational psychology course in their program of study. As such, my goal was to introduce students to some of the key theories, concepts, and methods used and also to develop their ability to research, read and evaluate the literature themselves.
A collection of readings was assigned (no textbook was used) that covered the major theories covered in the course. Students were asked to summarise three of these readings, incorporating information discussed during the lectures. Students were encouraged to include their own examples to illustrate the main concepts. Prompt feedback was given and students could resubmit their work. This ensured that students improved their understanding of the material before summative assessments were given.
The students were also asked to complete a project that consisted of locating peer reviewed articles, reading and summarizing the articles, and either writing an essay on the topic, creating a teacher’s guide, or designing a unit of instruction. The project was submitted in stages with prompt feedback given after each. Students were expected to revise their projects after each submission. Only the final product received a grade. This was done to encourage students to see the project as a single activity with a single goal, namely a well-researched and polished essay, teacher’s guide, or instructional unit.
Summative assessments consisted of three tests. These tests presented students with fairly elaborated cases. The students were then asked conceptual questions based on the cases. They were assessed on their ability to discuss the specific case with respect to a particular theory. This was done to ensure that students did not merely memorize concept definitions. Rather, they were expected to be able to discuss the theories and concepts in the context of a specific situation.
As a graduate seminar, this course did not require the usual design and so a description of the course and my role follows.
This course was taken by Masters and Doctoral students, and consisted of several guest speakers presenting their areas of expertise to the class. The goal of the course was to broaden the students’ understanding of the learning sciences by introducing them to the areas of expertise in the department. I arranged these presentations and provided the students with the readings and a discussion forum for each presenter using WebCT. Two students volunteered each week to prepare questions for the presenter based on the readings.
I negotiated the scope and nature of the major assignments with the students individually. Typically these consisted of two short papers based on two of the presentations followed by a final paper that integrated and expanded on the earlier submissions. As well, some of the doctoral students opted to design courses in the learning sciences for their major assignment. I evaluated the students’ assignments and provided extensive feedback.