May 05, 2009
While some academic classes focus on abstract theories, there is no denying the practical application of Erik Nilsen’s Psychology Methodology course. Nilsen’s course gives students a hands-on experience with designing and administering a major research project. PSY 300 teaches both psychology majors and non-majors all the steps to evaluate and conduct psychological research, write a literature review, design a project, collect data, and write a research article that is a culmination of the course work.
“Psychology is the largest major on campus,” says Nilsen. “If we didn’t offer courses during the summer, it would be even harder for students to finish the major on time.”
Many students can relate to the difficulties in getting needed classes at the needed time. Psychology major Rachel Farrell says, “I decided to take this class because I needed to fulfill the ‘Methods’ pre-requisite in order to move onto higher level psychology classes. The summer was the only time for me to do that if I wanted to enroll in certain classes for the fall.”
While the rigors of PSY 300 remain the same, summer students enjoy smaller class size and more individual attention. In fall and spring semesters, students break into small groups to conduct research projects. During summer session, the whole class focuses on one topic and shares responsibility for all aspects of the research project, including field research on campus and downtown. “The compressed time frame and smaller courses lead me to take a more active role in class projects so I am able to spend more individual time with students,” says Nilsen.
Beyond Lewis & Clark
Although it is rare for student projects to receive recognition outside the classroom, papers from two of Nilsen’s PSY 300 summer courses were presented at the Western Psychological Association conference held in Portland. This is a regional APA conference where a number of faculty and students present peer-reviewed research papers.
These two projects were: “Learning From Web-Based Tutorials: Getting to the Heart of Teaching Effectiveness” and “Effects of Paper Color on Mood and Puzzle Performance: Does Red Make You Blue?”
“This is a testament that the summer classes can sometimes lead to better results than regular term classes, with 14 students getting a coauthored, peer reviewed conference paper to put on their resumes!” says Nilsen.