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Psychological Sciences

Welcome to the NEW Behavioral Sciences Division.

Mission and self-study

 

 

The Psychological Sciences Mission and Self-study were developed as a part of the self-study process in preparation for the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges reaccreditation. This document was created prior to the reorganization of the Psychology Division, at which time the division was renamed the Behavioral Sciences Division. The study and teaching of psychology continues in the newly formed Psychological Sciences Department, which is now a department within the Behavioral Science Divison.

 

This document is divided into the following parts:

 

 


I. MISSION STATEMENT

 


The Psychology Division’s 5-year plan was developed to support the overall mission of the University as a whole. Consequently, it is important to briefly review the mission and goals of Western Oregon University.

Western Oregon University is a comprehensive university that creates personalized learning opportunities, supports the advancement of knowledge for the public good and maximizes individual and professional development. Our environment is open to the exchange of ideas, where discovery, creativity and critical thinking flourish, and students succeed.
 
The Psychology Division's mission is to create lifelong learners in psychology. This means preparing graduates following the scientist-practitioner model: specifically, students in our program seeking professions within the fields of psychology and gerontology will recognize the scientific foundations of the disciplines, will understand the core knowledge and concepts in the field, and will know how they can be used to solve human difficulties. Students will also be able to apply this knowledge and skills to their personal and professional lives. This application will occur at personal levels with self and others; and at a community level with the issues and problems that face us as a society, a nation, and a world.

Both university and division mission statements emphasize strong teaching and learning of knowledge. Second, both mission statements support the development of new knowledge as critical to the advancement of science and its application to human problems and concerns. Third, both mission statements support informed service to others.

Accomplishing our mission means that our majors and minors will be familiar with the basic principles of traditional discipline content areas as well as skills in using scientific methodology, critical thinking and skeptical inquiry to advance knowledge within the discipline. Our majors and minors will also be competent in their ability to access, evaluate, and summarize behavioral science literature through writing and oral communication following American Psychological Association style guidelines. Our majors and minors will apply scientific knowledge, skills, and values to solve human difficulties in their professional careers and they will be able to evaluate and apply scientific information to their lives and be sensitive to and respect sociocultural and international diversity. To accomplish this mission, the Psychology division has established the following goals:

  1. Provide a high quality program of instruction for our majors and minors as well as students in other programs serviced by the division. Our instructional program forms the basis for addressing the educational, career, and personal goals of our students. The instructional program embodies the scientist-practitioner emphases of the Division.
  2. Staff the division with qualified, committed, and productive faculty. Such faculty forms the heart and soul of an effective Psychology Division.
  3. Provide students with valuable personalized learning opportunities that promote learning, interest in behavioral sciences, and stronger professional relationships with faculty. Providing such experiences will help retain current students as well as attract new students to the program.
  4. Provide the Psychology Division faculty with adequate resources to accomplish their mission. This includes providing adequate classroom, office, and research facilities as well as professional support services. This also includes supporting faculty development activities that directly impact the Division’s ability to achieve its mission.
  5. Extend the expertise and energy of the Psychology Division to the larger community, both on the campus and beyond.
For this document, the Action Guidelines serve as goals for the division, and assessment components reflect the range of possible options for determining progress towards meeting divisional goal.

 

 

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II. OBJECTIVES, GOALS, AND OUTCOMES

 


The following objectives and student learning outcomes in accordance with the American Psychological Association (2002) document Undergraduate Psychology Major Learning Goals and Outcomes.   The goal of the Psychology Division to to help students achieve the following learing objectives and outcomes.

STUDENT LEARING OBJECTIVES

 

1. Psychology students will learn the basic principles of traditional psychological content areas as well as skills in the use of the scientific method as an approach to understanding research methodology, and advancing knowledge through critical thinking and skeptical inquiry.

 

2. Students will have the ability to apply psychological knowledge, skills, and values in their continual personal and career development and evaluation, as well as in their professional pursuits in a variety of settings.

 

3. Students willdemonstrate information competence as shown by their ability to access, evaluate, and summarize psychological literature through writing and oral communication following American Psychological Association style guidelines.

 

4. Students will understand the sociocultural and international contexts that influence individual differences and be sensitive to, respect, and interact effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and cultural perspectives.

 

  

STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES

  

 

Objective 1: Psychology students will learn the basic principles of traditional psychological content areas as well as skills in the use of the scientific method as an approach to understanding research methodology, and advancing knowledge through critical thinking and skeptical inquiry.

 

1. Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of appropriate breadth and depth in selected content areas of psychology

 

a) Theory and research representing the following general domains

  • Biological bases of behavior

  • Developmental changes across the lifespan

  •  Social processes that influence interactions

  • Cognition, learning, memory, and attention

b) Overarching themes, questions and conflicts in psychology such as

 

  • The interaction of heredity and environment

  • Variability and continuity within and across species

  • Free will versus determinism
  • The interaction of mind and body

c) Explain major perspectives in psychology (e.g., behavioral, biological, cognitive, evolutionary, humanistic, psychodynamic, and sociocultural.

 

Compare and contrast major perspectives

 

2. Students will understand and apply basic research methods in psychology, including design, data analysis and interpretation

 

a) Explain different research methods used by psychologists

 

  • Describe how various research methods address different types of hypotheses

  • Distinguish the nature of designs that permit causal inferences from those that do not

b) Evaluate the appropriate of conclusions derived from psychological research

 

  • Interpret basic statistical results

  • Evaluate the validity of conclusions presented in research reports

c) Design and conduct basic studies using appropriate research methods

  • Locate and use relevant databases and research to plan, conduct and interpret research studies

  • Formulate testable hypotheses

  • Collect, analyze, interpret, and report data using appropriate statistical techniques and American Psychological Association (APA) style

d) Follow APA code of ethics in treatment of participants


Objective 2. Students will have the ability to apply psychological knowledge, skills, and values in their continual personal and career development and evaluation, as well as in their professional pursuits in a variety of settings.

1. Students will understand and apply psychological principles to personal, social, and organization issues

            a) Describe major applied areas of psychology (e.g., clinical, counseling, industrial/ organizational, school, health).

            b) Identify appropriate applications in solving problems such as

  • the pursuit and effect of healthy lifestyles

  • origin and treatment of abnormal behavior

  • maximizing effectiveness in the workplace  

c) Apply psychological concepts, theories and research findings as these relate to everyday life.

2. Value empirical evidence, tolerate ambiguity, act ethically, and reflect other values that are the underpinnings of psychology as a science

            a) Recognize the necessity for ethical behavior in all aspects of psychology.

            b) Demonstrate reasonable skepticism and intellectual curiosity by asking questions about causes of behavior.

            c) Seek and evaluate scientific evidence for psychological claims

            d) Recognize and respect human diversity and understand psychological
explanations may vary across populations and contexts

3. Students will develop insight into their own and others’ behavior and mental processes and apply effective strategies for self-management and self-improvement   

a) Reflect on their experiences and find meaning in them

  • identify their personal and professional values

b) Apply psychological principles to promote personal development

 

  • self-assess performance quality accurately

  • incorporate feedback for improved performance

4. Pursue realistic ideas about how to implement psychological knowledge, skills, and values in occupational pursuits in a variety of settings.

 

            a) Apply psychological knowledge to formulate career choices

 

            b) Identify and develop skills and experiences relevant to achieving career goals

 

            c) Demonstrate the importance of lifelong learning and personal flexibility to sustain personal and professional development

 
Objective 3. Students willdemonstrate information competence as shown by their ability to access, evaluate, and summarize in writing or through oral communication psychological literature following APA style guidelines.

 

1) Students will demonstrate information competence and the ability to use computers and other technology for many purposes

 

            a) Demonstrate information competence at each stage in the following

 

  •  formulate researchable topic that can be supported by database search strategies

  • locate and choose relevant sources from appropriate media

  • use selected sources after evaluating their suitability

  • read and accurately summarize psychological literature

b) Use appropriate software to produce understandable reports of the psychological literature, methods, and statistical analyses in APA style

 

c) Use information ethically and responsibly

 

  • quote, paraphrase and cite correctly from a variety of sources

  • avoid plagiarism

  • avoid distorting statistical results

 2) Communicate effectively in a variety of formats

 

            a) Demonstrate effective writing skills

  • demonstrate professional writing conventions (e.g., grammar, audience awareness)
  • use APA style effectively

b) Demonstrate effective oral communication skills

 

Objective 4. Students will understand the sociocultural and international contexts that influence individual differences and be sensitive to, respect, and interact effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and cultural perspectives.

 

1) Recognize, understand, and respect the complexity of sociocultural and international diversity.

 

            a) Interact effectively and sensitively with people from diverse backgrounds and cultural perspectives.

 

            b) Examine the sociocultural and international contexts that influence individual differences.

 

            c) Explain how individual differences influence beliefs, values, and interactions with others and vice versa.

 

            d) Recognize prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behaviors that might exist in themselves and others.  

 



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III. RELATION BETWEEN PROGRAM AND THE LACC

 



In the new WOU Liberal Arts Core Curriculum (LACC), Psychology is not one of the choices to fulfill general education requirements. The LACC relates to the Psychology Major in that a more well-rounded individual will be better able to put psychology content into a meaningful context. However, The Psychology Division opted not to include its General Psychology sequence in the LACC choices in the Social Sciences for two reasons. First, in the previous versions of the LACC, the first in the General Psychology sequence (Psy 201) was required of all students. This requirement generated a student load that we were unable sustain. Second, because our General Psychology courses are already over-enrolled with majors and minors, we decided that we could best serve those students by focusing on them and not attempting to attract additional students.



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IV. PROGRAM ANALYSIS

 



The Psychology Division offers value to students and the University in several ways. Below are several features highlighting both the value the Psychology Division brings to Western Oregon University and the competitive advantage these features provide us compared to other psychology programs in the Oregon University System.

Features unique to the Psychology Division include a) emphasis on human behavior, b) faculty-student collaborative research, c) flexibility within the major, d) collaboration and participation of faculty within the division and e) focus on planning and assessment within the division.  The Western Oregon University Psychology Division retains its uniqueness in the Oregon University System through its singular emphasis on human behavior. We feel that we successfully instill a scientific perspective in our curriculum so that the majority of our students, who envision applying psychology in service to others, can do so in a rational and informed manner. Our curriculum and faculty have evolved to support this perspective. This emphasis is reflected strongly in our program objectives. goals and outcomes.
 
The faculty in the Psychology Division have always been vigorously involved in research activities. In 10 years, however, there has been a marked increase in the amount of research activity. Concomitantly, the amount of faculty-student collaborative research has also increased . All psychology faculty conduct research with undergraduates. Each year we have approximately 20 students serving as research assistants. This high-level of involvement is quite deliberate since alumni surveys conducted over the past 10 years suggest that we have a larger proportion of students going on to graduate school than in previous years.  Involving undergraduates in research offers value to students in several ways. First, participating in extracurricular research activities enhances students’ chances of gaining admission to graduate programs in psychology. The American Psychological Association book, Graduate Study in Psychology, suggests that research involvement increases students' chances of acceptance in and successful completion of such graduate programs. Commensurate with the increased involvement of undergraduates in research activities, we have seen a greater numbers of students applying to and being accepted into graduate programs across the country. Second, involvement in research provides students with enhanced opportunities to meet the learning goals specified by the Psychology Division. Being involved with research provides students with a greater understanding of the scientific method, more opportunities to develop and apply key skills (e.g., critical thinking and effective communication), and more exposure to ethical issues and their effective resolution. Third, being involved in research allows students to receive more personalized mentoring from faculty. Additionally, faculty members also benefit in that active involvement in research helps keep faculty abreast of trends and changes in their field of study that informs faculty teaching.
 
The Psychology major consists of 52 hours of Psychology course work. There is 32-hour core of courses that all majors must take (General Psychology, Introduction to Research Methods, Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, Quantitative Methods, and Research Methods in Human Behavior); the remaining 20 hours of course work are electives. The core courses attempt to guide our students toward a broad-based examination of the range of Psychology topics available. The flexibility provided by the 20 hours of Psychology electives allows for a major that can be individualized to meet the needs and interests of each student. For example, student can pursue classes in focus areas including Developmental, Cognitive, Clinical, and Industrial/ Organizational. Results from our alumni surveys suggest that students appreciate and benefit from the flexibility allowed within the Psychology major.

Over the years, the Psychology faculty has developed and maintained a culture of participation and collaboration resulting in a very cohesive and collegial atmosphere among faculty. This atmosphere provides us with a distinct competitive advantage in several ways. First, the Psychology Division meets weekly rather than monthly (compared to most other Divisions on campus). Meeting with such frequency allows us to be proactive in identifying and resolving issues before they become crises. Second, the Psychology Division has a strong culture of student-centeredness. This culture guides and informs our decision making so that we are able to enhance both in- and out of-class experiences for students. Third, even though one faculty member serves as Division Chair, we routinely disperse tasks among all members (e.g., budgeting, scheduling, assessment) essentially operating as a committee of the whole. Finally, we provide quarterly forums, in which faculty present their research or current work; serving as an additional source of intellectual stimulus and support.

The Psychology Division has a strong history of strategic planning and assessment. The Psychology Division has had an active 5-Year Plan since 1980. This plan is reviewed and revised (as needed) annually at the Fall Division Retreat. Great pains are taken to align our plan with the strategic plans of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the University as a whole. Consequently, this plan serves as a common vision for our faculty and its accomplishment facilitates the College and University in meeting its strategic initiatives. This plan guides and provides for annual assessment of such Divisional activities as instructional and curriculum planning, staffing, student and faculty development, and community relations.

The major challenge facing the Division is that we are significantly and chronically understaffed.

Due to continuing high demand for general psychology courses and the lack of staffing to meet this demand, the Psychology Division opted to not have a required course or sequence for the 12 hour Social Science requirements in the LACC. Any Psychology course can be used, however, to achieve the 12 hour minimum requirement for Social Sciences. By default, due to prerequisite requirements, this ends up being Psy 201, 202 (General Psychology) or Psy 218 (Psychological Foundations of Education). The popularity of the major (approximately 300 each year) and minor (60 per year), coupled with the amount of service instruction provided by the Division results in very large class sizes. Upper Division course sizes usually range from 25-50, with an average size of approximately 37. The nature of our instruction has changed to accommodate these larger class sizes. Large class sizes have limited instructors’ abilities to utilize a full range of teaching modalities, affecting the quality of student experience both in and out of the classroom. The extent to which Psychology course work is regularly used by students in other programs became very apparent through an analysis of all students taking Psychology courses during fall term, 2005 (link to student survey fall 2005). In lower division introductory courses, (e.g., 200 level) 71.9 % were nonmajors. For upper division courses (e.g., 300-400 level) 52.6 % of students were nonmajors. Additionally, advising loads for full time faculty are high (42 advisees per faculty). These teaching and advising loads have made it more difficult to maintain the quality of teaching and student interaction that make us valuable to our students and university. Our goals for the future, listed later, will enumerate solutions to this and other deficits that we feel need remedy.
  
In order to offer a well rounded psychology curriculum, the faculty continually examine our curriculum to insure that it is broad enough to represent adequately the major areas of psychology while at the same time providing students with opportunities for service learning and practical experience It is our goal to provide depth of coverage in several areas However, with a faculty of eight tenure track faculty and, on average, 2 F.T.E. adjunct , we are limited in the number courses that we can offer each year. Across the last 15 years courses added to to reflect changes within the discipline of psychology and provide real world experiences include: Psy 360: Cognitive Psychology, Psy 370: Sensation and Perception, Psy 390: Theories of Learning, Psy 415: Sport Psychology, Psy 426: History of Psychology, Psy 443: Group processes, Psy 445: Organizational Psychology, Psy 446: Applied Psych in Management, Psy 447: Organizational Development, Psy 451: Biopsychology, Psy 460: Cognitive Neuroscience Seminar, Psy 471: Computers in Psychology, Psy 480: Infancy and Childhood, Psy 481: Middle and Late Childhood, Psy 482: Adolescence, Psy 483: Adulthood and Aging, Psy 492: Psychology of Women, Psy 496: Program Evaluation Psy 410 Mentoring I, Psy 411 Mentoring II.
 
Beyond our major, as noted above, the Psychology curriculum serves as a minor and as supporting course work for a number of different academic areas. Psychology is regularly used as a minor by students in the Health, Corrections/Law Enforcement, and Business.  There are several majors that utilize Psychology courses as regular and required parts of the major; these include Health, Public Policy and Administration, and Early Childhood and Early Childhood/Elementary Education Authorizations. Additionally several Pre-Professional Studies programs including Pre-Nursing, Pre-Occupational Therapy, Pre-Optometry, and Pre-Physical Therapy require psychology course work. Education majors pursing Elementary/Middle Authorizations can take 12 hours of psychology course work. These results show that the Psychology Division has a significant service role at Western Oregon University.

With regard to instructional methods, most instruction employs a degree of technology; however, we still rely on traditional tools such as lecture, overhead projectors and blackboards, when technology rich classrooms are not available. Psychology has always included interactional experiences in and out of class. Such experiences are now being called cooperative and discovery learning. 


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V. ASSESSMENT/EVALUATION

 



The Psychology Division assesses program quality using a variety of approaches. Program quality is determined by assessing the following criteria: 1) The extent to which students are meeting student learning outcomes; 2) The extent to which students are satisfied with their experience of the Psychology program; 3) The extent to which students are successful in gaining entry into graduate school or the workforce; 4) the extent to which outside organizations are satisfied with the quality of graduate psychology majors; and 5) the extent to which we are meeting the goals of our 5-year plan.

1) Student learning outcomes are assessed using two different methodologies. First, we assessed the extent to which students learned the basic principles of traditional psychological content using a Psychology achievement test given during the 2005-2006 academic year. All General Psychology students were compared with students finishing Research Methods (a course we consider to be our capstone course) (link to results comparing 201 & 468 students). Second, we also assess students’ ability to apply knowledge and as well as access, evaluate, and summarize psychological literature through writing and oral communication following American Psychological Association style guidelines. This assessment is accomplished by reviewing Psy 468 Research Methods student project papers using a standardized rubric (link to Psy 468 rubric).

2) Student satisfaction with content and process of instruction is assessed through periodic survey of both current majors and alumni. As a part of its Five Year Plan objectives, the Psychology Division undertook a survey of psychology alumni in 2000 and 2005.

Student satisfaction with content and process of instruction id also assessed using an end-of-the-year senior survey. This survey assesses graduating seniors’ satisfaction with various aspects of the psychology program as well as collects information on their plans to continue their education or enter the workforce (link to results from end of year senior survey). 

3) Student success in gaining entry into graduate school and/or the workforce will be assessed through both the alumni survey and the end-of-the-year senior survey.

4) Organizational satisfaction with Western Oregon University Psychology students will be assessed through both a survey of practicum sites, mentoring sites as well as surveys of organizations that hire Western Oregon University Psychology graduates (link to results of practicum survey, mentor survey, and job sites). 

5) Meeting the goals of our 5-year plan will be assessed annually through a State of the Division report. The 5-year plan specifies criteria to be assessed to determine the extent to which each goal is being accomplished. These criteria will be assessed annually and the results provided in the State of the Division report (link to state of division report)


 

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VII. EFFECTIVENESS OF RESOURCES

 



Physical resources available to the Psychology Division have hindered its performance in several ways. The lack of a set of assigned classrooms to the division produces an inconsistency in knowing prior to the start of the term whether classroom technology resources will be available to the instructor. Laboratory space is often shared by 2 or more faculty along with their student research assistants. Adjunct faculty often have to double or triple occupancy of offices. 

As noted above, the Psychology Faculty consists of eight full-time, tenure-track or tenured faculty members along with an average of 2 FTE of adjunct part-time faculty per term. The tenure track faculty all hold a Ph.D. Faculty have specialties in cognitive and physiological psychology, experimental psychology, clinical/counseling psychology, developmental psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, and family studies. This spectrum of specialty areas representing both experimental and applied psychology fits well with the Psychology Division's goal to educate students from a scientist-practitioner model.

The psychology faculty has a range of experiences in research, and professional and institutional service. Research strengths are indicated by extensive publications in a variety of areas of interest. The Psychology Faculty lists 5 books or manuals and 60+ articles or chapters on their current vitas. Professional and institutional service includes consulting in fields of expertise, holding executive positions in professional and public organizations, and serving in leadership or advisory roles at Western. This level of productivity has been maintained in the context of a 12-hour teaching load.


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VII. CHANGES SINCE THE LAST REPORT

 



Changes since the last Northwest Accreditation have been both beneficial and problematic. The largest impact has been from the decrease in university funding and budget cuts over several years. Over the past 10 years 3 full time psychology faculty have left the Division: two retired and one took employment elsewhere. Through both national and local searches we were able to replace all but one of these individuals. One position was absorbed due to budget issues during the 2001-2002 academic year. The Division is smaller than it was 15 years ago while the number of students it serves has grown dramatically.
 
A larger proportion of psychology classes are now taught by part time faculty (link to results of 5 year plan surveys).  Although these faculty have been, for the most part, quite good, virtually all of our introductory sequence lacks the attention of more experienced faculty. The Division has some concern about continuity of instructional philosophy from the general psychology through upper division coursework. Beyond course contact, academic advising suffers because of the lack of dedicated, full time faculty. Clearly the quality of advising, and its effect on retention are important concerns.



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VIII. PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

 



Over the next five years, the Psychology Division will seek to accomplish several goals related to faculty, curriculum and physical facilities. The Psychology Division will seek two full time, tenure-track positions, one in social psychology to maintain the balance in breadth required in a well rounded psychology program; and a second one in educational psychology to aid in our service to the college of education Additional full time faculty would help make the advising load more manageable and reduce the number of courses taught by part time faculty.


Finally, the Psychology Division will continue to involve even more students in research, and will extend this involvement to the full range of research activity. We expect more students to actually participate in research planning and data collection, in analyzing and reporting results, in presenting results at conferences, and in authoring and co-authoring journal articles.


 

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CONCLUSION

 



The Psychology Division has been productive in the face of dwindling resources and growing demands. The success of our program has led to a situation in which the quality that we seek is threatened by sheer numbers of majors and minors, and by support service to other disciplines. In order to maintain our productivity and accomplish our goals, the Psychology Division needs more faculty.
Contact

Psychological Sciences (503) 838-8344 | or e-mail: kunzel@wou.edu

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