Psychology WID Department Project W2019: Development of Experiential Laboratory Components in General Psychology

Just like other science disciplines, Psychology is built upon conducting empirical studies, mostly via experimentation.  However, for more than two decades at Dawson, Psychology courses have not included a lab component. As a result, students do not get exposure to how Psychology is done in the real world of academic research.  In addition, incoming students have an unrealistic view of what Psychology is all about.  A majority believe that the discipline is mostly about helping people in difficulty by doing therapy.  While this is an important aspect of Psychology, this constitutes only a sub-field within the discipline. 

We offer 45 sections of General Psychology every year.  Experiential labs would have impacts on the levels of the students, teachers and the department, allowing

  • Students to learn some of the content of the General Psychology course in a more experiential learning context;
  •  Students to be exposed to the research-oriented genre of the discipline.  It would allow them to understand the research process behind the findings;
  •  Teachers to use models that can engage student’s critical thinking;
  •  Teachers to develop and use a reflection and self-assessment approach in the labs so that students are encouraged to be engaged in their learning process;
  • The Department to offer sections that would be more lab-oriented for groups that could benefit from such an approach. 

We are therefore working this winter to develop a series of labs that could be used in the General Psychology course.  These labs would have a written component that could take different forms but essentially would allow students to engage both with the content, the scientific process, and the written genre in this discipline. This will help correct the misconception that many students have of the discipline when they first enter college and get them to learn in a more hands-on manner.  Lab writing would be required and would gradually teach students how to write in Psychology.  Our work so far has involved literature searches, faculty consultations and an interview with a focus group composed of former General Psychology students.  The insights from the focus group have proven especially useful in determining to what extent students are learning and applying the scientific practices specific to the discipline of Psychology.

Madelaine Côté, Selma Hamdani and General Psychology student focus group

The Physics WID project done in 2017 by Nadim Boukhira and Jean-François Brière makes a reference to an article written by Cary Moskovitz and David Kellogg (2011),Inquiry-based writing in the laboratory course,” which summarizes an innovative approach to the traditional science lab.  This inquiry-based approach incorporates many of the elements presented in Bean (2011) that we have learned about previously in different Dawson WID activities.   We aim to apply a similar, but modified approach for the social sciences, more specifically in psychology. 

Project proposal authors:  Marie-Pierre Gosselin, Madeleine Côté, Cote, Selma Hamdani, Rajesh Malik (Psychology)