Week 3 Blog Spotlight: Topic – Human Development

Microphone stands in spotlight by kjeik, on Flickr Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  kjeik 

This week in class we tackled the human development chapter. After discussing Ainsworth’s Strange Situtation Test, Baumrind’s parenting styles, Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, and the moral development debate between Kohlberg & Gilligan, I asked my students to choose between a blog post where they evaluated parenting advice they found online or react to a high school graduation speech from 2012 that went viral. The full prompts for this week are available here. Most students opted to discuss the graduation speech entitled “You are not special” which was delivered by David McCollough, Jr. This attention-grabbing title caught the attention of nine students this week, who shared how they would have reacted to this speech and connected it to some aspect of development. You can view their thoughts at the following links:

Three students opted to critique parenting advice. One put Dr. Phil’s recommendations to the test, another chose a Yahoo! article about how to select a quality nanny, and the third investigated Psychology Today’s 3 things you should never say to your child. For those of you who are parents, share your reactions to these students’ assessments via comments on their posts. My students and I look forward to seeing what you have to say!

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Week 4 Blog Prompts

For your blog prompt this week, you are to choose one of the following TED talks:

Each talk focuses on a different aspect of the brain. In your response, address the following issues:

  • What drew you to choose the talk you did?
  • Briefly summarize the talk.
  • What did you find most interesting about the talk?
  • How trustworthy did you find the presenter and the information she or he presented? Explain why.(Note: you must go beyond talking about the reputation of TED talks in general)
  • Come up with a research idea of your own based on the information presented in the talk and briefly outline how you would conduct it.
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Week 2 Blogging Spotlight – Topic: Research Methods

Microphone stands in spotlight by kjeik, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  kjeik 

Though this was the topic the highest number of my students reported being the least interested in, the posts this week did not seem to reflect a lack of interest. Perhaps it was the prompts for the week that got them excited. Perhaps they are just good at faking interest (which doesn’t bode well for me this semester…or does it?). In any case, here are some of the highlights.

Five students chose to take the first option of designing their own research study to answer a question of their choosing. Their topics covered a broad array of ideas from several areas of psychology: the effects of additional sleep vs. exercise on energy levels, how climate may influence perceptions of temperature changehow duration of television exposure affects eyesight, how exposure to laughter affects smiles, and whether or not a stage model is the best way to conceptualize moral development. Reading through these posts I’ve already got numerous ideas for cool studies we could conduct on campus. Hopefully some of them will take me up on offers to make these ideas a reality.

Most students, however, chose to review and critique a short video where the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters conducted a test (links to the videos themselves are available via the Week 2 Prompts post). Students were nearly equally interested in the myth choices presented in the prompts. Two students chose to tackle “Is it more dangerous to drive in high heels” (Link 1, Link 2). Two students were drawn to the test of “beer goggles” (Link 1, Link 2). Two more looked at gender differences in reading others’ emotions (Link 1, Link 2). Investigating the relative danger of driving while talking on the phone vs. driving drunk caught the attention of two students (Link 1, Link 2). The winner, by a nose, this week was whether or not yawning was contagious, with 3 students providing a critique (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3).

Make sure to check out their posts for more details and please feel free to post comments, questions, or reactions to what you read. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Week 3 Blog Prompts

Here are the options for this week’s blog prompt:

  1. Assess the reliability of parenting advice on the internet. Find a website or news story offering parenting advice (include a link to the site in your post) and critique the advice it gives based on the information in Chapter 3 and lecture this week. You may not be able to judge the truth of all pieces of advice, so be sure to point out what looks like good advice, what looks like bad advice, and what is undetermined. Make sure to tie your assessments back to information in the book or lecture.
  2. In 2012, a high school commencement speech went viral because the speaker (David McCollough, Jr.) told the students “You’re not special.” Watch his speech here. React to what you heard. It was not long ago you were at your own graduation ceremony. What would it have been like for you to hear this message? Given what you’ve read about teenagers’ cognitive, emotional, physical, and moral development in Chapter 3, how effective a message is this for teenagers?
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Reaching Beyond General Psychology

As part of Austin College’s most recent Strategic Plan, we are working toward increasing digital literacy, communication skills, and demonstration of transferable skills. As online communication has become increasingly important in a variety of industries over recent years (especially advertising), it is vital that our students understand how to use the web to reach out to others. To this end, I decided to incorporate student blogging into my General Psychology (PSY 101) course to replace the short reflection papers read only by me or the comment boards in our learning management system I’ve used in the past. We tried this for the first time in Fall, 2014 and it seemed to be a success.

Now that a few of the kinks have been worked out, we’re upping the stakes a little bit. I want my students to think more broadly about the reach of psychology and the power of communication than the confines of our classroom. I hope this encourages students to share their ideas to a more diverse audience of other students, faculty, professional psychologists, and random strangers. I furthermore hope they will find a receptive audience who will ponder difficult questions, challenge assumptions, and ask for clarification about what they are discovering in the classroom and their readings. That’s where you come in…

I’ve attached a PDF which contains links to the blog for each student in this semester’s class. I post the writing prompts for each week here on this blog, so you can see what kinds of questions they will be responding to each week. They will be commenting on each others’ blogs as part of the course requirements, but I encourage you to read students’ blogs and offer comments, reactions, resources, and/or questions to their posts. Given the way the assignments work in this course, students are not required to post new material every week, but have to make at least 8 posts throughout the semester. Following blogs you like is a great way to keep up with new content, or you can keep checking back here to see which responses I highlight every week.

A few blogs may be set to private, which means the student decided to only share the material with his or her classmates and you will not be able to view the content without first requesting access. Please respect the students’ rights to choose not to allow you access to their work.

We’re already a couple weeks into the semester, so the students have made some posts already. I’ve summarized the responses to the students’ Introductory prompt here, but you can check out each student’s individual posts using the links in the attached PDF. I’ve also attached the course syllabus to this post so you get a sense of what we’ll be talking about this semester. Highlights of student suggestions to improve an in-class experiment and exploring the relationship between historical figures’ lives and their theories are also available, and more summaries and highlights will be posted each week.

I hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to interact with these fine students and join us as we explore the field of psychology!

PSY 101 Blog List


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Week 1 Student Blog Spotlight

Microphone stands in spotlight by kjeik, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  kjeik 

The main topics the first week of the course were the historical roots of psychology and an overview of the major theoretical schools (or lenses) which guide psychological inquiry. The Week 1 Prompts can be viewed here, and most students chose to write about how the personal lives of prominent theorists may have influences their theories. There are numerous examples of how this has happened in psychology (see my previous post about Marsha Linehan and DBT), and my students have shared examples related to Wilhelm Wundt, Sigmund Freud, John Watson, and BF Skinner. Have a read and think about the ways in which our pasts influence the way we perceive the world and the innovations we create.

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A Little Help From My Students

We covered the basics of research methods in psychology last week, and one of the activities we did in class was conduct a Coke vs. Pepsi taste test. Now this was not about preferences, as many taste tests traditionally are, but rather the question “Can people tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi?” Due to time (one 50-minute class session) and other (e.g., budget) constraints, this study had a few strengths and several weaknesses. I asked my students for help identifying the limitations of the study and suggestions to make the study stronger, and several took me up on the offer.
This post contains a good summary of the experiment itself, so I’d suggest starting there. If you want the full details of the experiment, I’ve attached the description I hand out in class to this post. Additional suggestions can be found at each of these links (1, 2, 3, 4). Feel free to discuss these suggestions with the student authors via comments and/or post your own suggestions to the experiment on their posts or this one.
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Introductory Blog Recap

It was a pleasure getting to know my new students from reading their brief introductions and I’m always curious to know what students are thinking when they look over the syllabus. I asked them each to blog about the three topics from the course schedule they were most excited about and the three topics they were least excited about (for those of you not enrolled in the course, I’ve attached the syllabus to this post).

Starting with what students were least excited about, there were not many surprises there. Covering the scientific method, research methods, and experimental design are nearly always the top three responses, though the order varies from semester to semester. Students typically state they know these things already and/or expect the sessions to be dreadfully boring. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as they think, but even if it is these topics are all covered in the first 2 weeks of class so at least it’s done early. Students are also often wary of the brain, specifically it tends to be more about having to know so many structures while they are more excited about how it functions as a whole.

This semester my students seem really into memory. Several commented on having been fascinated with memory for some time, while others are hoping to get practical tips they can use for studying and exams. Social roles and personality are also rated highly this semester, while mental health issues came in toward the middle/back of those ranked, which is somewhat lower than they’ve been in my courses in the past.

It’s always interesting to see where my class will shake out in terms of sleep, stress, and drugs, alcohol, and the brain. These topics seem to generally split the class, and this was the case this semester as well. Some students described being interested for academic or personal reasons, while others said these topics have been done to death or just remind them how they aren’t doing well in these areas.

I’ve put the full responses in the table below. Does anything stand out or surprise you about my class’s preferences? If you were taking a general psychology course which of these topics would you be most/least excited about? Leave your answers in comments!

Class Topic Most Excited Class Topic Least Excited
Memory Encoding 9 Scientific Method 12
Memory Retrieval 8 Research Methods 9
Memory Failures 6 Sleep 5
Sleep 6 Brain Structures 4
Drugs, Alcohol, & the Brain 6 Experimental Design 4
Social Roles & Conformity 6 Drugs, Alcohol, & the Brain 3
Personality Theory 5 Stress 3
Personality & Culture 5 Stereotypes & Discrimination 3
Brain Functions 4 Neurons 3
Mood Disorder & Anxiety 4 Psychology Then & Now 3
Cognitive Development 3 Memory Encoding 2
Moral Development 3 Social Roles & Conformity 2
Brain Structures 3 Brain Functions 2
Classical Conditioning 3 Memory Retrieval 1
Emotion 3 Memory Failures 1
Classifying Mental Illness 3 Cognitive Development 1
Operant Conditioning 2 Moral Development 1
Observational Learning 2 Classical Conditioning 1
Theories of Motivation 2 Emotion 1
Personality Assessment 2 Operant Conditioning 1
Stress 2 Treating Mental Illness 1
Stereotypes & Discrimination 2 Attachment Theory 1
Treating Mental Illness 2 Obedience 1
Attachment Theory 1 Psychotic, Traumatic, & Personality Disorders 1
Neurons 1 What is Psychology? 1
Theories of Intelligence 1 Personality Theory 0
Coping with Stress 1 Personality & Culture 0
Obedience 1 Mood Disorder & Anxiety 0
Psychotic, Traumatic, & Personality Disorders 1 Classifying Mental Illness 0
What is Psychology? 0 Observational Learning 0
Psychology Then & Now 0 Theories of Motivation 0
Scientific Method 0 Personality Assessment 0
Research Methods 0 Theories of Intelligence 0
Experimental Design 0 Coping with Stress 0
Assessing Intelligence 0 Assessing Intelligence 0

Link to syllabus: PSY101C_sp15_macfarlane

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Week 2 Blog Prompts

Here are the options for this week’s blog post:

Option 1

For this week’s discussion, I want you to design a research study about a topic you find interesting in psychology. You can choose any topic you would like as long as you relate it to something from our textbook. In your post make sure to do the following:

  • List your research question
  • State your hypothesis (what you think the outcome would be and why)
  • Decide which methodology you would use (i.e., survey, observation, etc.) and explain your choice
  • Describe your procedure (what you would have participants do, how you would recruit participants)

Make your research idea something feasible that you could actually do as a student researcher. In other words, assume you have a fairly small budget and a limited amount of time. If you’re a psychology major or minor, you will eventually take Research Methods and have to conduct a research project, so this is great practice to start thinking about what you might want to do.

For your comment on a classmate’s post, I want you to make a suggestion about a way to improve the study he or she described. I also want you to say why the suggestion would be useful.

Option 2

Mythbusters is a popular TV show on the Discovery Channel which tests popular ideas using scientific methods. The show generally does a pretty good job, but now that you’ve read the chapter and discussed the scientific method, you are in a good position to critique the show. Select one of the minimyths (short clips from the show) below and critique the methods used to test the myth. Remember, critique means list the strengths and the weaknesses. For each weakness, discuss why it is a problem and suggest a solution.

Is Yawning Contagious?
Is Talking on a Phone While Driving as Dangerous as Driving Drunk?
Do Beer Goggles Really Exist?
Is it Dangerous to Drive in Heels?
Are Women Better Than Men at Reading Emotions?

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Week 1 Blog Prompts

There are two options for this week’s blog prompt:

  1. The major schools of psychological theory were introduced in class this week. Typically students feel drawn to some theories more than others. Based on what you’ve learned so far (as well as any other knowledge of these theories), select the theory you think is best. In your post, make a case for why this theory is superior to the others. I also want you to select the theory you think is worse than the others and explain why. For this assignment, you must choose only 1 theory to be best and worst. As we will discuss in class, each theory has limitations and strengths, so it is up to you to try to balance these factors. The second part of this assignment is to find a resource which would help us all learn more about the theory you selected as the best. For example, you could find a scholarly journal which publishes research from that theory, a website with more information about the theory, etc. Put a link to the resource in your post, explain what the resource offers, and explain how trustworthy you think the resource is. For help on evaluating sources, see the guide on Abell Library’s page.
  2. Psychological theories are highly influenced by the lives of the people who come up with them. For your post, I want you to research the personal life of one of the major theorists we discussed in class and make connections between that person’s life and the theory he or she developed. Make sure to use trustworthy sources and include your references in your post.
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