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Student Learning Goals

Drawing from the American Psychological Association’s (2013) Learning Goals for Undergraduate Students, the Department of Psychology emphasizes three key learning goals for psychology majors:

  • Knowledge Base: Psychology majors will gain fundamental knowledge of the key concepts and findings in psychological science.
  • Scientific Inquiry and Thinking: Psychology majors will become proficient at interpreting, designing, and conducting basic psychological research.
  • Professional Development: Psychology majors will develop meaningful professional direction for life after graduation.

These are the learning goals of special emphasis within the major, designed to complement and extend the college-wide learning goals that student will master through their psychology, core, and elective course work.

Assessment of Student Learning Goals

To measure students’ development in the three major learning goals for the major, the psychology department administers periodic assessments of students’ knowledge and skills. Some of these assessments are embedded directly into coursework; others are taken independently of course work as students progress through the major.

Knowledge Base

To assess development of psychology knowledge as students complete the psychology curriculum, all psychology majors complete the ACATS exam, a nationally-normed test that measures knowledge of the concepts and history of psychology in eight different domains (Abnormal, Clinical, Developmental, Learning and Memory, Physiological, Social Psychology, Statistics and Design).

  • Measurable student learning outcome: 50% of graduating seniors will score at or above the 50th percentile on the overall score of the Area Concentration Achievement Tests (ACATS), a nationally normed achievement test in psychology.
Scientific Inquiry and Thinking

To assess scientific inquiry at the intermediate stages of the curriculum, the psychology department utilizes a common and cumulative final exam for the statistics and methods sequence (PSYC 290/291). This common exam has a heavy emphasis on practical application of research skills—students receive realistic and complex data sets, must think critically about the research design to develop an analysis strategy, and must then analyze and write up their results and conclusions. Overall, this exam is designed to provide a relatively comprehensive assessment of students’ ability to conduct basic psychological research.

  • Measurable student learning outcome: 100% of students completing PSYC 291 Behavioral Research Methods and Statistics II will score at or above 70% or a C- on the common final exam.
Professional Development

To assess professional development as students complete the psychology major, the psychology department administers a mandatory online exit survey to all graduating seniors. This survey measures a wide variety of attitudes and outcomes, some of which are specifically designed to assess students’ professional development. We have the following measurable learning outcome based on this information:

  • Measurable student learning outcome: 80% of students will report participation in at least one high-impact practice (internship, shadowing, research, lab assistant).