PSY1010. Foundation Psychology A. There are approximately 300 students in the semester one course offering, and three-quarters of the students learn via distance education. The course is also offered in semester three via distance education.
Lorelle uses an assessment scheme that is designed to build students' academic skills and encourage critical thinking right from the start of their studies. Students submit three pieces of work and take an exam. The first assignment (worth 15%) is designed to help students learn key referencing and research-report writing standards, and takes the form of an early online test in week 4. This may be retaken as many times as required for the student to master the task. Students submit their answers online and they receive immediate feedback, so this is an efficient way for students to develop their information and technology skills.
The second assignment, an essay (worth 30%), builds on the first skills-based assignment. They tackle this task armed with guidelines, checklists and templates, and can consult the feedback from their first assignment.
Students also produce a log of their research activities (worth 5%), documenting their experiences of participating in various psychological research projects. The students are required to reflect on this experience to gain full marks.
Finally, students take a multiple-choice examination to demonstrate mastery of course content (worth 50%).
This is a core course in the psychology degree, and is often the first psychology course that a student completes. It lays the foundation for subsequent courses, introducing students to many of the concepts and methods used in psychology. In addition to demonstrating knowledge of the basic concepts and techniques of psychology, students are required to apply the style and format requirements outlined in the latest edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). APA style covers every aspect of writing and presentation including grammar and referencing. Students are encouraged to engage actively in learning processes, to develop academic learning skills, and to become confident, independent learners
The aims of the course are to imbue students with knowledge of some of the basic psychological concepts and methods and to provide them with the opportunity to apply the formal style requirements for essay and report-writing required in the psychology profession.
The assessment scheme is designed to develop a supportive and safe learning environment for students, where they can apply new skills and make mistakes without penalty. Lorelle wants to ignite an interest in the material and a passion for the subject, and aims to help students to acquire the study skills they need to be confident, self-directed learners so they can build on these early successes in subsequent courses.
Lorelle re-wrote a US first-year psychology textbook from an Australian perspective in order to provide students with local examples that are relevant to their personal lives and experiences. This local focus is balanced with reference to other, more global, examples. She tries to foster an environment of mutual respect, and encourages students to ask questions to minimise any chances of misunderstanding. She logs on to the discussion board at specified times so that students always know when she will be there. She typically answers all queries within 24 hours, by logging on at least three days per week.
The need for continuous improvement is a cornerstone of Lorelle's approach to teaching. Lorelle recognises that teaching effectively is a skill that can always be improved and she has made a conscious effort to review and update her efforts continuously, in order to find improved ways of engaging students in learning processes. For example, Lorelle sought feedback from both colleagues and students when developing the online test. She continues to seek feedback at all levels, from SELTs to informal interactions with students, adapting the course accordingly.
Lorelle is responsible for this course across all three campuses, and coordinates a team of tutors and markers. She received help from ICT in developing her online test.
Lorelle says that students who take her course are successful in their efforts to learn the required academic skills and are able to think critically about the issues. Students rate the assignments as challenging, but at the end of the course they are able to reflect on their learning and are often pleased when they realise how much they have learned. Comments from staff who teach subsequent courses have indicated that the foundation courses help to equip students with the necessary study skills they need for success.
Problems and advice
Lorelle believes it is vital to set the appropriate standards and attitudes for learning at the foundation level, and has embraced new technologies as a means of improving the learning environment for students.
Students who do not participate in a course need to be followed-up to determine the reasons why. Lorelle believes a potential way to help such students engage with the course is to assign a support officer to the cohort of first-year students, to provide advice and support to students on non-academic issues and to help them with any issues that might be impacting on their studies.
Lorelle says it's important for educators to convey their passion for a subject to their students. She believes that teachers should make the effort to understand who their students are, to be open and approachable, and to strive to create safe learning environments. This means respecting the students, being aware of individual differences, and making no assumptions about student learning approaches or their backgrounds and experiences. Lorelle feels it is important to provide students with many opportunities to engage actively in learning processes and to help them better understand their individual preferences and develop a deep approach to learning.