The immersion approach to teaching research skills to first year psychology undergraduates – Can we run small research projects on a large scale?

Bohan, J. and Szymanek, L. (2014) The immersion approach to teaching research skills to first year psychology undergraduates – Can we run small research projects on a large scale? In: 7th Annual University of Glassgow Learning and Teaching Conference, Glasgow, UK, 10th April 2014, (Unpublished)

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First year undergraduates often express surprise and anxiety at having to study research methods and statistics in psychology (Kitching & Hulme, 2013; Rowley, Hartley, & Larkin, 2008). The conventional approach to teaching research methods and statistics in psychology is in laboratory-based classes where students participate as a subject in an experiment and are given a prepared data set to analyse along a prescribed set of guidelines. This is believed to scaffold their learning and introduce them to methodological concepts. However, whilst this conventional approach delivers a homogenous student experience, students report such classes as dull, that they feel alone, and that they do not develop their research knowledge or capabilities (Barry, 2012; Rowley, 2008). We report a novel attempt to teach research methods and statistics in a large Level 1 class (N=650) with the aim of enriching student engagement and independent critical thinking skills through guided development of student-generated mini-experiments. Taught over three tutorial sessions, students were actively engaged in the development of ‘novel’ research questions, data collection and analysis, and culminating in an oral presentation of their results to their peer group. In tutorial 1, tutors assisted small groups of 4/5 students in generating hypotheses on set topic areas (e.g. age-related differences in memory). Students used resources available on Moodle to run their projects. In tutorial 2, tutors helped students understand, analyse and interpret their data. In tutorial 3 students presented their research findings in a talk delivered to their peers in the tutorial group. Students and tutors recorded a reflective diary of their experiences and we assessed students’ self-perception of their research methods knowledge before and after the activity. In this presentation we will report on how this project developed over time and the administrative challenges faced in organising and running such projects in a large class with graduate teaching assistants as tutors. We also review the student and tutor experience throughout the project and discuss whether this practice is applicable to other disciplines.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bohan, Dr Jason and Szymanek, Dr Larissa
Authors: Bohan, J., and Szymanek, L.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology

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