Awards January 2012

At the January 2012 NITOP, four participant posters were presented with awards. All awards were decided by Institute faculty and announced at the closing session on January 6, 2012. The Frank Costin Memorial Award for Excellence (including a certificate, a check for $250, and a complimentary registration at a future NITOP conference), for the poster judged by Institute faculty as best promoting quality teaching methods, was presented to Vicki Sheafer for her poster entitled "Using Drama to Enhance Learning of Classic Experiments in Social Psychology." The NITOP faculty also recognized the runner-up for the Costin Award: "Development of an Introductory Psychology Assessment Inventory" by Sarah Hagedorn, Richard Stephens, Robert Bubb, and Bill Buskist. The Doug Bernstein Award (a certificate, a check for $250, and a complimentary registration at a future NITOP conference), for the poster judged by the NITOP conference committee (not including Doug Bernstein) as the most humorous, creative, or original poster, was presented to Jeremy Newton for his poster entitled "Using Social Networking to Teach and Mentor Psychology Majors." The Society for the Teaching of Psychology Award (a certificate, a check for $250, and a year's membership in STP), for the poster judged by Institute faculty as best incorporating new or innovative content into psychology courses, was presented to Rebecca Singer for her poster entitled "Study Abroad Courses Serve as Alternative 'Animal Laboratories.'" The NITOP faculty also recognized the runner-up for the STP Award: "Pharmaceutical Company Print Advertising as a Teaching Tool in Abnormal Psychology" by Sarah Hall. The Society for the Teaching of Psychology also supported the STP Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Award, which included a certificate, a check for $250, and a complimentary one-year membership in STP. This award was given to the poster judged by the NITOP conference committee to be outstanding in terms of (a) the importance of the research question addressed, (b) the soundness of the research methodology employed, (c) the use of appropriate qualitative and/or statistical analyses, and (d) the clarity with which the implications of the research findings for teaching and learning are expressed: "Practice Tests and Knowledge Surveys: A Comparison of Review Activities," by Heather Mitchell. The abstracts of these posters follow.


Using Drama to Enhance Learning of Classic Experiments in Social Psychology

Vicki Sheafer
LeTourneau University

Psychology has a long history of using drama as an active learning technique (Brooks, 1985; Sheldon, 1996; Toner, 1978; Wann, 1993). It has been used in conjunction with many different kinds of psychology courses (Introductiory, Developmental, History, Social) and for many different purposes (demonstrations, active learning exercises, extra-credit). Wann (1993) had students in an undergraduate social psychology class select interesting experiments, develop a dramatic script to describe the research, and perform the play for class. I adapted Wann's (1993) technique for use in my own Social Psychology course. The class was split into six four- or five-person groups. Each of the groups chose an experiment from a list of 15 classic experiments in the history of social psychology included in the course syllabus. Each group was responsible for writing a script and performing their play in class. Each play had to be at least 15 minutes in length. After the completion of the assignment, a 17-question evaluation survey was filled out by twenty-eight class members. The questionnaire used a 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) likert scale. Results show that the students enjoyed enjoyed both participating in the activity and also watching the plays of others, that it allowed them to be creative, caused them to work hard, was interesting and helpful, and recommended that the professor continue to use the assignment in the future. The poster explains the assignment in more detail, including a discussion of requirements, the experiment list, and sample scripts developed by the class.


Development of an Introductory Psychology Assessment Inventory

Sarah Hagedorn, Richard Stephens, Robert Bubb, and Bill Buskist
Auburn University

The American Psychological Association Assessment Task Force was established with a charge to standardize and integrate psychological curriculum across institutions (APA, 2008). To meet this charge, valid assessments of student learning, based on learning objectives, are necessary. Valid assessments can be used to guide student learning, evaluate student success, research and develop effective teaching strategies and techniques, and provide useful teacher evaluations and program appraisals. The purpose of the current study was to develop a valid introductory psychology assessment for use at the course and department level across universities. Learning objectives were developed using the "top" terms and concepts from ten subfields of psychology identified by Boneau (1990) and the level of proficiency for learning objectives at the introductory psychology level (APA, 2008). Assessment items were generated from the resulting learning objectives and pilot tested. Items deemed psychometrically sufficient were administered to a national sample of seven colleges and universities. The final assessment inventory consists of 42 items. Psychometric properties such as difficulty and discrimination indices are provided. The results demonstrate a significant correlation between the current assessment inventory and final course grades and suggest that the developed assessment inventory is a valid and reliable measure of students' knowledge of introductory psychology.


Using Social Networking to Teach and Mentor Psychology Majors

Jeremy Newton
Saint Martin's University

Social networking websites have permanently altered the way that people communicate. While much of this communication is personal, the impact of social networking websites can have both intentional and unintentional effects on a student's academic and professional pursuits. Students can do real harm to their careers by simply posting pictures or information that present them in a less than professional light. At the same time, however, social networking has demonstrable power as an information resource. It is surprisingly easy to share information with many people at one time. Given this power as a communication tool, there is a real opportunity to reach students and provide them with accurate information about psychology and other topics.

With this in mind, college level instructors have not necessarily mapped out best practice for use of social networking websites to reach students. This poster presentation covers how to use social networking as a reliable way to provide information to students in a manner that allows for enhancement of their academic experience. Further, details are offered about the best way to "approach" students via social networking websites that allow for the students to protect their own privacy. The entire mentoring process is covered, including classroom use, advising, career mentoring, and professional communications


Study Abroad Courses Serve as Alternative "Animal Laboratories"

Rebecca A. Singer
Georgetown College and University of Phoenix

Students intending to continue their education in graduate school often need to show research competency, a skill sometimes difficult to obtain at a small, liberal arts college. This is especially true of the animal learning and cognition field. Animal laboratories require time commitments and monetary investments that may not be readily available. While there are some virtual animal lab manuals, these do not replace the hands-on experience so vital for graduate work. This poster describes how a study abroad course can provide an alternative to the traditional laboratory experience. Two study abroad courses were designed to allow students to develop skills in understanding peer-reviewed journal articles, training marine mammals, and research methodology. The first course allows students to travel to the Roatan Institute of Marine Sciences (RIMS) in Roatan, Honduras to work with a group of captive bottlenose dolphins on three different research projects. Students learn how research questions guide the experimental design. In the second course, students travel to the Bahamas to engage in naturalistic observation of wild dolphin populations (Bimini) as well as to collect data on a captive dolphin population (Nassau). Students are able to compare and contrast research methodologies appropriate for wild and captive populations. Specific readings, descriptions of research projects, and assignments are presented. In addition, qualitative data on student satisfaction with the course is presented.


Pharmaceutical Company Print Advertising as a Teaching Tool in Abnormal Psychology

Sarah E. Hall
Wheaton College (IL)

This poster presents an in-class activity involving analysis and discussion of magazine advertisements for psychotropic medications to treat mood disorders. This activity has been successfully employed by the author in several Abnormal Psychology courses as a teaching technique to expand and challenge students' thinking and create class discussion. The purpose of the activity is fourfold: 1) to raise students' awareness of the public portrayal and perception of mental illness and of those who experience it; 2) to facilitate students' critical thinking about media materials; 3) to facilitate students' understanding of the many influences on treatment decisions; and 4) to enhance students' persuasion skills through debate about whether drug companies should be allowed to advertise directly to prescribers and/or consumers. Students are asked to look over and read a variety of print advertisements for antidepressants and mood stabilizers and discuss several topics related to the portrayal of the medication and disorder as well as pharmaceutical company advertising and its implications. A description of the small and large group components of the activity is presented along with discussion questions and prompts. Finally, possible adaptations and expansions of the activity are offered.


Practice Tests and Knowledge Surveys: A Comparison of Review Activities

Heather Mitchell
Webster University

From cooperative to experiential learning, research suggests that students learn best when they actively participate in learning environments (e.g., Anderson, Reder, & Simon, 1996; Cobb & Bowers, 1999). The precious 50 or 80 minutes of class instruction time is invaluable, so professors may want to introduce participatory, effective review activities outside of the classroom. Additionally, students typically begin introductory psychology with several misconceptions, and they often successfully complete the course with many of the same misconceptions (Kowalski & Taylor, 2009). This poster will present an empirical comparison of two review activities designed to improve exam performance and decrease psychological misconceptions: practice tests and knowledge surveys.

Over the course of four semesters, students' performance on the first exam as well as their beliefs in common psychological misconceptions were assessed. During the first of the four sessions, no specific review activity was suggested. In subsequent sessions, students were strongly encouraged to complete the tests at the end of the chapters. Testing effects have been shown to significantly increase learning and retention (Karpicke & Blunt, 2011). However, the benefit of the testing effects on exam performance and reducing misconceptions was not reliable. So, reviews involving a course knowledge survey have been incorporated in this current study in an effort to improve learning. Knowledge surveys include questions covering the content of an entire course and introduce metacognition as students are asked to rate how well they understand the course information. Such surveys appear to significantly improve course outcomes. This poster presents details and data for both review activities.