Of Two Minds

From the syllabus:

Why Psychology?!
Psychology 100 is the most popular course at nearly every university and there’s a reason why. The science of psychology covers an amazing range of topics. After all, the mind can do many amazing things! Oh yeah, it also fulfils a GenEd requirement ;)

Nearly everyone probably has a different idea of what psychology actually is. That’s not surprising since even people who have been in the field for many, many years still disagree what should be a part of psychology and what should not. Psychology covers topics ranging from depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia to how we generate and understand language, to why we have a particular cell in our brain dedicated to Halle Barry. Some ‘psychologists’ even study things like extra sensory perception (ESP) – although we won’t be studying that in this class (or probably any other class in the psych department).

Our goals for this class will be for you to explore two basic ideas:

1.) What do Psychologists study?

2.) How does Psychology impact my day to day life?

By investigating these two ideas through the course readings, attending and participating in class, and being diligent in your studying I hope that you will be able to both get a great grade in this course and understand what Psychology is. You will be able to critically explore its place in society as well as the media which so awfully messes it up most of the time.

Is this way too much hand wavy b.s.?

Or… would you rather see this as a replacement?

General Information:
This course is a general survey of the field of psychology. Topics include perception, learning, memory, thinking, motivation, emotion, personality, development, intelligence, therapy, psychopathology, and other areas of psychology.

Comments

  1. #1 Caspar
    January 20, 2009

    I don’t think you need the sniffy/negative comment about parapsychology. After all, some parapsychology experiments are among the most rigorous and best controlled studies in the whole of experimental psych. Anomalistic psychology classes teach a valuable lesson about experimental design.
    Simpler not to mention it all.

  2. #2 mdiehl
    January 20, 2009

    Please tell me that this is not from U of M or any other Big Ten school.

  3. #3 The Omnibrain
    January 20, 2009

    It is… ;)

  4. #4 Kevin H
    January 20, 2009

    It seems like a perfectly reasonable intro to psych course. The goal of the class shouldn’t be to train psychologists, but rather to give people who will do jobs completely unrelated to psych a small bit of grounding in the field. Keep it light, I don’t care.

  5. #5 Eric
    January 20, 2009

    It functions well as an advertisement, at least. If I had to choose a gen-ed and was selecting between that, and a different course with the standard dry course description, I can’t say it wouldn’t affect my decision. The first seems way better for encouraging people to take the class, if that’s your goal.

  6. #6 Katherine Moore
    January 20, 2009

    Well between the two I definitely prefer the first. In addition to being more exciting and interesting, it conveys to me that the instructor cares about teaching and isn’t just a fuddy-duddy. That being said I’d probably make some adjustments. I’d probably take out the emoticon (though the Gen Ed thing should be left in). I’d also just leave out parapsychology, but maybe you could replace it with another example if you were so inclined. I’d also edit this: “You will be able to critically explore its place in society as well as the media which so awfully messes it up most of the time” because it doesn’t read that well and also it could be better to say something like you’ll be able to critically evaluate media coverage of Psychology. It’s actually an excellent thing to be teaching your students. I’d just word it slightly different.

    I’m teaching cognitive psychology this spring. I’d love to see any great materials you’ve developed, and I’d be happy to share what I come with as well. Some day I’ll need to learn how to teach intro, even though I never really took it (in high school only) or any clinical, social, personality, or organizational psych class. Basically all I know is cognitive and maybe neuroscience and a tiny bit of development.

  7. #7 The Omnibrain
    January 20, 2009

    Thanks Katherine :)

    I have gigabites of great material for psych 100 (and some good stuff you could use for cognitive as well). Lots of dirty videos as well :)

    You’re welcome to it all whenever you’re ready for it.

  8. #8 Tim O'Brien
    January 20, 2009

    Emoticons in a course description -1

    Comment about Parapsy? Seem to dwell too long. Maybe it is just not my generation, but I was always skeptical of course descriptions that tried to “excite” students like this. If they are in college, one would think that they already had an inkling of the subject and why it was important for them to take the class.

  9. #9 Paul
    January 20, 2009

    Psychology 100 is the most popular course at nearly every university and there’s a reason why.

    I thought the reason was that most students consider it to be an “easy A”, or at very least a “blow off course” that requires little effort or time.

    Honestly, I don’t think either of those two descriptions belongs in a syllabus. A syllabus should outline the course coverage and define policies and expectations. It should be relatively formal and certainly free of extraneous fluff.

    The first excerpt would be fine for a lecture on the first day of class, say. Break it up and put it on a few power point slides…

    The second excerpt belongs in the course catalog.

    I do have some problems with the grammar of the first quote, however. For example “Nearly everyone probably has …” It’s shameful when educators write such poor phases.

  10. #10 The Omnibrain
    January 20, 2009

    “It should be relatively formal and certainly free of extraneous fluff. ”

    Why?

    “I thought the reason was that most students consider it to be an “easy A”, or at very least a “blow off course” that requires little effort or time.”

    This is completely and wholly untrue.

    It is also shameful when you insult the person instead of criticizing the grammar itself.

  11. #11 Katherine Moore
    January 20, 2009

    “I thought the reason was that most students consider it to be an “easy A”, or at very least a “blow off course” that requires little effort or time.”

    People who think this are quickly proven wrong both at my current and at my former institutions, because they grade on a curve and set the average no higher than a B…usually less than 10% of students get an A.

    “Maybe it is just not my generation, but I was always skeptical of course descriptions that tried to “excite” students like this. If they are in college, one would think that they already had an inkling of the subject and why it was important for them to take the class.”

    Yes, it is just your generation. Check out a very recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/weekly/v55/i20/20b00701.htm
    OK, you need to have an account, but the jist is that students today “have the world at their fingertips,” and so they are not always in awe of what we teach them. They need to be respected as thinkers (we need to meet them halfway with the knowledge they bring to the course) and they need to be told why what we are teaching them is actually important. This is what OmniBrain hopes to do.

    Though I think that the author’s syllabus is possibly a bit colloquial, I see nothing wrong with it. In fact, as I said before, it conveys a sense of excitement about the topic and the desire to get students engaged in it. Face it — students come to college today to get a credential. It’s OUR duty to let them know that what they are learning is important and worthwhile. Show them that psych 100 is more than just a gen ed requirement.

  12. #12 The Omnibrain
    January 20, 2009

    “People who think this are quickly proven wrong both at my current and at my former institutions, because they grade on a curve and set the average no higher than a B…usually less than 10% of students get an A.”

    Actually… it’s hard without the curve. My class, which I felt like I coddled.. (is that the correct spelling?) had a normal curve naturally. The tests were extremely difficult as were the quizzes and writing assignments.

  13. #13 Phil Goetz
    January 20, 2009

    I prefer the second, by far. It says more in fewer words. Remember the student reading this probably has several dozen other course descriptions to read.

  14. #14 chezjake
    January 20, 2009

    I realize that things have changed a lot in psychology since I took Intro Psych at a quite prestigious SLAC back in 1959. It was probably the second worst course I ever took. The prof (head of department) was the author of the text (most widely used intro text at the time), and his lectures were mostly just reading the text.

    There was a weekly quiz with 10 multiple choice questions; 2 hour exams with 100 multiple choice questions each; and a 3-hour final with 300 multiple choice questions. Final grades were determined by putting your total number of correct answers for all quizzes and exams on a strict bell curve, such that there were equal numbers of A’s and flunks, and most students got a C.

    (FWIW, the worst course was Intro Philosophy, taught by a guy whose mind was perpetually somewhere in outer space and who assumed that every intro student already had a full grasp of the entire vocabulary of philosophy. His class had the highest dropout rate of any on campus.)

  15. #15 Em
    January 21, 2009

    I am curmudgeonly, and therefore immediately skeptical of any course that tries so hard to sell itself as the first one does.

  16. #16 Gary
    January 21, 2009

    The first reads quite a bit like my Organizational Behavior syllabus. Students definitely appreciate the genuine enthusiasm. I’m pretty sure you can be enthusiastic, serious, and rigorous at the same time.

  17. #17 Epinephrine
    January 21, 2009

    By a huge margin, the concise second option. I want to know what’s covered in a course, not gushing about how wonderful it is.

    Besides, psych attracts enough dabblers without hype – if the program is anything like the experimental psych at my school you want to attract some people with a real interest in learning (and preferably some science background), and the second seems better pitched for that.

  18. #18 Austin
    January 21, 2009

    I prefer the latter syllabus description. Yet, in the age of ‘greater student numbers equal greater funding’, I won’t quibble with the former (academicians also have to eat).

    Just to note, my introduction to psychology course (admittedly, years ago) was one the most difficult courses of my undergraduate studies. While it did cover a great deal of territory (as an introductory course should), it focused primarily on the scientific methods that were used to arrive at the obtained results. Not surprisingly there were significant early withdrawals from the course.

    Yet again, confirming that a sample of one (or a few) does not a general conclusion confirm!

  19. #19 DuWayne
    January 23, 2009

    I prefer the latter, but then I’m thirty two and just started school to study psych. I’m not in need of excuses to take it and not just because it’s required.

    chezjake -

    Back in the early nineties, one of my passtimes (when I wasn’t playing music, doing drugs or having Teh Sex) was to sit in on lecture classes. I wasn’t a student, but I had gotten a job passing out sample note pages for a company that sold course notes.

    One of the samples was for a philosophy class and looking at the sample page I was appalled that these folks were paying this note taker for her notes. They were just a series of disjointed statements and made absolutely no sense. It looked very much like someone just writing stream of consciousness. So I sat in on his class. It wasn’t her fault. This guy was completely incomprehensible and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on acid. Either that or something snapped once while he was on acid and he just never came down.

  20. #20 Andy DeSoto
    January 24, 2009

    I think somewhere in between is probably the best option. The enthusiasm in the first description just looks like it’s trying a bit too hard… and to me, it paints the instructor in my mind as a bit overenthusiastic to take seriously. Maybe it just doesn’t feel “academic” enough. I wouldn’t want a class designed to ‘sell’ me psychology, but rather give me a taste of the discipline.

    The second paragraph I’m not a big fan of, either– because that’s what I’m used to reading in my course catalogs.

  21. #21 sohbet siteleri
    February 1, 2009

    It seems like a perfectly reasonable intro to psych course. The goal of the class shouldn’t be to train psychologists, but rather to give people who will do jobs completely unrelated to psych a small bit of grounding in the field. Keep it light, I don’t care.

  22. #22 Eliot Garton
    July 21, 2009

    Regardless of the fact that most of what is learned in a 100 class is history and fiction, and the remainder is still hasn’t been proven to be factual. The sad part is that I am only slightly exaggerating. The curve itself that you speak of is considered a ridiculous and archaic by Developmental and some Educational Psychologists, yet by the time you’re taught that, you’re off the curve in a graduate class, looking down on everyone else. I can say that it is one of the few 100 classes that completely mislead the undergrad in both useful factual subject matter and potential career experience.

  23. #23 altın çilek
    April 3, 2011

    I’d love to see any great materials you’ve developed, and I’d be happy to share what I come with as well. Some day I’ll need to learn how to teach intro, even though I never really took it (in high school only) or any clinical, social, personality, or organizational psych class. Basically all I know is cognitive and maybe neuroscience and a tiny bit of development.

  24. #24 capsiplex
    April 3, 2011

    “You will be able to critically explore its place in society as well as the media which so awfully messes it up most of the time” because it doesn’t read that well and also it could be better to say something like you’ll be able to critically evaluate media coverage of Psychology. It’s actually an excellent thing to be teaching your students. I’d just word it slightly different.