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Scenes from Faculty Senate

Application For Course Approval

for General Education Program

Course Number: PSY 113
Course Title: General Psychology

Check the general education core area for this course:
_X_ Social Sciences

Department(s) in which course will be taught:
Psychology Department

Faculty member(s) responsible for course:
Su L. Boatright
Office Phones: 874-4231 / 952-7303
Office: Woodward 20A

Will a non-tenure track faculty teach this course?
Yes ___    No _X_

The integrated skills that this course will focus on are:
_X_ Read complex texts
_X_ Write effectively
_X_ Examine human differences

Course description (as would be found in catalogue):
General Psychology (3)
Introductory survey course of the major facts and principles of human behavior. Prerequisite for students interested in professional work in psychology or academic fields in which an extended knowledge of psychology is basic. (Lec. 2, Rec. 1) (S)

Faculty member's signature: on original
Chairperson's signature: on original
Dean's signature: on original

Part I

1. Primary learning objective of course:

Students will be introduced to a survey of the field of psychology, acquiring content knowledge and the language of the field, as well as the critical thinking and evaluative skills associated with learning about psychological research methods.

2. Meeting the goals of the general education program:

a. advancing the understanding of human behavior and/or human development

Students are introduced to the many subfields in psychology, including biopsychology/ neuropsychology, developmental psychology, sensation/perception, learning, memory, and cognition, personality theory and assessment, and psychopathology. They are also introduced to the concept that human behavior can be most fully understood using the many different levels of study in the field of psychology. For example, a multi-levels approach to understand human eating behavior/eating disorders requires examination of biological influences (e.g., genetic inheritance and metabolism), individual differences (e.g., personal food preferences), an understanding of potential situational influences (e.g., time of day and attractiveness of food), as well as social and cultural influences (e.g., cultural standards of beauty and what is culturally acceptable as food). Course content also examines human personality and behavior from multiple perspectives (i.e. behavioral, psychoanalytic, cognitive, sociocultural). A developmental component in the course provides a basic introduction to the study of how human and non-human behavior can be studied as a function of the passage of time, highlighting issues related human gender development.

b. apply social science theoretical perspectives and/or social science concepts to contemporary societal issues in order to expand the knowledge base in the social sciences

Issues of racism and prejudice are given emphasis in the course, with discussions of "White privileges" and "Models of Whiteness." Students also learn that racist behavior can be affected by social factors such as in-groups and out-group influences, as well as deindividuation. Other forms of stereotyping and prejudice are also addressed in this course. For example, gender issues/inequities are discussed in an examination of the developmental perspective, while sexual orientation is discussed in the context of the changing nature of the diagnoses of psychiatric disorders.

c. provide assignments or opportunities which involve the interpretation of data and/or the evaluation of evidence

The General Psychology course has been closely associated with the subject pool for human psychological investigations in the Psychology Department, as well as comparable studies conducted by researchers in other departments on campus. Students can therefore participate in these research projects for course credit. However, they are also provided alternative means for acquiring the same credit, including analysis and critique of published articles in psychological journals. There are 4 to 5 such assignments per semester.

3. Suitability of course for general education area

For the most part, an introductory or general psychology course inevitably addresses issues related to "human behavior in social, economic, cultural, and political contexts." It also, to a slighter extent, addresses non-human behavior and functioning since so much of what we know about the human mind and behavior derives from research with nonhuman animals. This course contains a social psychology component that presents basic psychological concepts such as obedience to authority, conformity to group social pressure, fundamental errors in attributing causes to other people's behavior, stereotyping, discrimination, and prejudice. Social factors, such as relative economic status and cultural biases, are highlighted in discussions of intelligence assessment. The difficulties associated with cross-cultural research are emphasized in discussions of perceptual phenomena. Political contexts are relevant to materials regarding psychological assessment, psychiatric diagnoses, gender development, sexual orientation, and the forms of discrimination addressed in U.R.I. Psychology Department's Multicultural Mission Statement (presented in the classroom each semester).

The integrated skills that this course will focus on are reading complex texts, writing effectively, and examining human differences. Students will be required to read, interpret, and evaluate two psychological journal articles each semester, in the context of Psychology in Action! (PIA!) projects. (See online PIA! forrns.) They will also be required to write two short papers (typically, a reaction paper regarding attendance at a Multicultural event on campus and a paper that requires that they examine human behavior from multiple psychological perspectives). Following written feedback regarding these two papers, students will be asked to revise them in order to earn course credit. Students will also be required to communicate their evaluations of psychological research in a written format (i.e. PL\! forms) that includes descriptive and evaluative commentary, in addition to short answers. To a lesser extent, students will learn the foundations for the use of quantitative data in the course discussion of descriptive and inferential statistics. They will be required to use information technology in order to access the syllabus and course materials online, and they will be encouraged to access PIA! journal articles using online resources, distinguishing between peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed publications. Finally, students are provided opportunities to practice speaking effectively in the smaller (35 student) recitation sections associated with the course, but they will not be graded on these latter abilities.

5. The General Psychology course typically enrolls 500+ students, each of whom meets in a smaller recitation each week. The graduate teaching assistants who lead the recitation sections are provided standard materials for class discussion and testing. The graduate student recitation leaders are clearly informed about the course assignments and course grading, both of which are presented in the online course materials.

6. General Psychology sections, other than the large enrollment course discussed here, will prepare additional general education course materials for evaluation.

Part II

Please note that my current course syllabus is available online at the following web address:

It will be updated at a later time to reflect the two major changes that will allow it to qualify for the new General Education requirement. Also, note that these web pages are not printer-friendly and they therefore require students to access the web materials frequently, checking for course announcements.

Specifically, these changes will reflect the assignment of two Psychology in Action! (PIA!) projects that must be evaluations of journal articles (with instructions for accessing these publications) and the requirement for revisions of the two writing assignments. In the event that large student registrations become automatic through course registration procedures, the same course materials will be available through WebCT, rather than the world-wide web.