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Learning Objectives

Curricular goals

We conceptualize curricular goals in terms of knowledge of theory and empirical findings in various subfields of psychology, skills in research methods and data analysis, and values.

We developed 10 specific goals-that our students

  1. develop a knowledge base of psychology (KNOWLEDGE)
  2. develop expertise in using research methods of psychology (KNOWLEDGE, SKILL)
  3. develop critical thinking skills for the consumption and interpretation of academic and nonacademic knowledge (SKILL)
  4. learn how to apply psychology to real world problems (SKILL)
  5. be able to conduct an ethical analysis of research and conduct research in an ethical fashion (VALUE)
  6. demonstrate informational and technological literacy (SKILL)
  7. communicate effectively in writing and speaking (SKILL)
  8. demonstrate independence and intellectual maturity in the production of knowledge for academic and nonacademic communities (SKILL)
  9. show an understanding of the significance of psychological research (KNOWLEDGE, VALUE)
  10. develop an understanding of the sociocultural context of psychology (KNOWLEDGE, VALUE)

Our goals overlap in large measure with the goals for undergraduate education in psychology developed by the American Psychological Association. We differ from the APA goals in our splitting APA's single "critical thinking" goal into several parts: our Goals 3 and 8 emphasize the interpretation and production of knowledge, respectively, and Goal 9 emphasizes sophistication in evaluating the theoretical and practical importance of research. We did not include APA goals relating to personal development and career planning.

Learning Outcomes and Assessment

We continued to examine our senior exercise (PSYC 185 and 191), considering which of the curricular goals are the focus of the senior exercise and identifying specific markers of student attainment of those goals. Table 2 at the end of the report contains our analysis. The table shows the specific learning outcomes we wish our seniors to achieve in the Fall or Spring portion of the exercise. Also on this table are assessment rubrics (0 to 2 scales) on which we plan to rate seniors' mastery of each of the outcomes. As you will note, an underlying dimension of the assessment scale is the level of independence students have achieved.

Our overall goal with assessing the senior exercise is not to evaluate individual students' theses. Rather, we intend to look across students at the level of expertise we observe in each of the target areas in order to identify areas of strength and weakness in their collective preparation for the thesis. If we identify areas of weakness, we can then devise ways to strengthen student preparation either before senior year or in the Fall semester of senior year.

Assessment of Psychology Department Senior Exercise (PSYC 190 and 191)


Department Goal


Specific Learning Outcomes

(Fall or Spring Semester)


Assessment Rubrics


Goal #2. Develop expertise in using research methods of psychology (knowledge, skill)*



1. Selects appropriate measures for the study; reliable and valid survey instruments, experimental stimuli, interview or observation protocol with rationale and psychometric data (Fall)

2. Plans appropriate data analysis, include section describing plan for data analysis (Fall)


0 = proposal is missing measures or data analysis plan; unclear about how to find measures or statistics to use

1 = proposal includes measures and required statistics with rationale but depends on advisor for one or both

2 = proposal includes all measures/required statistics with good justification, chosen independently



Goal #3. Develop critical thinking skills for the consumption and interpretation of academic knowledge (skill)*



1. Can criticize findings and conclusions in reports of research incorporated in literature review (Fall)

2. Can compare findings of different studies critically; can relate findings to more general hypotheses and find contradictions (Fall)

3. Can offer alternative interpretations of findings and suggest ways of testing them (Fall)




0 = Thesis plan takes results of previous studies at face value; does not consider alternatives or criticisms; reviews research without criticism or critical comparisons with other studies.

1 = Critically assesses studies but does not develop a research plan that grows out of criticisms; research plan would only confirm previous theoretical positions, not test them.

2 = Plan is based on critical analysis of previous studies and motivated by theory or contradictions between studies on the topic



Goal #5. Ethical analysis and conduct of research (knowledge, value, skill)



1. Completes on-line training in ethical research methods with human subjects and present online certification of completion to PSYC 185 instructor. Find computer-based training course for students, follow the link on the NIH Office of Human Subject Review main site map for office of human subject review:

2. Brings internal IRB materials to thesis advisor, to file in Dept (IRB form, consent forms, debrief) (Spring)




0 = fails to complete online course; fails to deliver IRB materials

1 = completes online course but fails to deliver IRB materials or produces inadequate consent form

2 = completes online course and brings fully developed IRB packet


Goal #6. Informational and technological literacy (skill)

1. Uses PSYCInfo or PubMed to conduct comprehensive search of the literature for thesis proposal (Fall)

2. Contacts Librarian (Meg Garrett) for help if necessary (Fall)

3. Finds appropriate instruments for study (Fall)

4. Uses Survey Monkey if needed for data collection (Spring)

5. Uses SPSS to analyze and display data appropriately (Spring)


0 = unable to use search tools, instruments, or SPSS effectively

1 = literature search is only partial, instruments are inappropriate or SPSS skills are inadequate

2 = literature search is comprehensive, instruments are appropriate, SPSS skill is up to par


Goal #7. Effective written and oral communication (skill)

1. demonstrate effective writing skill including organization and clarity of expression, correct grammar, engaging style, and APA format (Fall, Spring)

2. demonstrate effective oral presentation, including organization, clarity of expression, engaging style (Fall, Spring)

3. ability to critique other students' written work and oral presentations (Fall)

4. respond to verbal questions about thesis with technical language (Spring)


0 = written presentation is disorganized, does not conform to APA style, has grammatical errors; ppt presentation lacks critical information/data displays

1= written presentation is relatively clear, APA style nearly accurate, ppt presentation has most of the necessary information; makes supportive comments on others' work

2 = written work is clear, engaging, stylistically correct; ppt presentation is concise and engaging; makes critical comments on others' work


Goal #8. Independence and intellectual maturity in the production of knowledge for academic and nonacademic audiences (knowledge, skill)


1. Select appropriate thesis topic in an area of interest (Fall)

2. Generate appropriate hypotheses from what is already known, with meaningful rationale (Fall)

3. Engage in high-level discussion in response to faculty questions about thesis project during oral presentation (Spring)


0 = thesis topic is poorly worked through, not situated in past literature, unable to respond to faculty questions

1 = thesis topic is adequately situated in past research, accomplished without extensive advisor assistance, answers questions factually

2 = thesis question responds to the literature, answers to questions are incisive, thoughtful


Goal #9. Understand the significance of psychological research


1.  In proposal and thesis, discuss the theoretical and applied importance of proposed research in the context of theory and research in the chosen field (Fall)

2. In thesis and oral presentation, articulate theoretical and applied significance of  findings from own research (Spring)

0 = Unable to articulate rationale/importance of findings

1 = Developed a rationale for the study, addressed to some extent the theoretical or applied importance of findings

2 = Work contains a sophisticated rationale for study hypotheses that references the literature, and a thoughtful discussion of the importance of student's research findings


* Not all faculty require students to develop study methodology (Goal #2) in the Fall Semester. Instead, some faculty ask students to concentrate exclusively on the literature review and development of the research question (Goal #3). Thus, a more fine-grained rubric for assessing the literature review portion of the thesis was also developed for use in the Fall semester portion of the Senior Exercise, as follows:


Goal #3. Develop critical thinking skills for the consumption and interpretation of academic knowledge (skill)*



Literature review includes:

1.   coherent framework and outline that organizes the paper

2.   comprehensive coverage of the literature

3.   theoretical and conceptual approaches

4.   appropriate critique of studies, recognizing strengths and weaknesses

5.   implications and conclusions from studies; clear how they fit in the narrative thread

6.   conclusions for each section and for the review overall

0 = Inadequate

1 = Good, but room for improvement

2 = Very good