Brainstorming Multiple Challenge Solutions

(This post is reproduced on Molly Metz’s blog.)

Design Problem: Making method and statistics courses more palatable and to get students to understand psychological science in the realm of psychology.

Solution #1 (Alex’s Idea)

Introduce a class project or projects in a methods course that facilitates discussion of design, implementation, and analysis to the course.

  1. Main engine: Zaps, The Norton Psychology Labs (
    1. This laboratory engine has an online component, where students register for the site, and may take part in famous psychology experiments from cognitive, social, and other areas in psychology.
    2. Modules can allow for individual registrants that can be aggregated into class data.
    3. Students can also print out their individual performance for aggregation into a spreadsheet for analysis.
    4. Modules are presented to students using Flash.
    5. Aspects of the Project
      1. Depending on the size of the class, the interactive component can either be group-based (for small-medium size classes) or iClicker/crowdsourced-based (for large lecture classes).
      2. Depending on the length of the term, one or two projects can be completed.
      3. In addition to the normal curriculum of the course, the project will incorporate required course content. This integration should help students realize the way psychological students is done in the real world, giving some context to the field in general
  1. While the module(s) will be chosen prior to the start of the course to ensure that all milestones are hit and the curriculum matched, the students will discuss the design of the experiment, with various activities in-class to facilitate answers.
  2. Students will then do the experiment online, effectively being their own subjects.
  3. More in-class activities will facilitate the analysis of the data phase of the project
  4. Following part of the procedure from Ciarocco, Lewandowski, & Van Volkom, 2013, students will complete a small results section and truncated discussion section
  5. Expectations
    1. Due to the introductory nature of the course, simpler designs are required; the Zaps experience needs to be highly controlled.
    2. The project will hopefully show students the utility of psychological research and assuage misconceptions of psychology.
    3. The writing portion of the project will prepare the students for the laboratory courses where more writing is involved.

Solution #2 (Molly’s Idea)

As identified in an earlier post, the educational challenge Alex and I have decided to approach concerns the teaching of undergraduate psychology research methods and statistics. To review, undergrad psych majors tend to dislike methods and stats classes due largely to three major issues: misconceptions about psychological science; disconnect between methods, stats, and content; and the lack of inherent interest in the material. As a result, students experience high levels of anxiety, low perceived value of the material, and low interest in engaging with it.

One possible solution I would like to propose is the use of the adaptive learning technology being developed by Knewton ( This platform, currently being developed and tested with private investors, aims to personalize the learning experience as much as possible by utilizing user data and adjusting the lesson plan according to user needs and preferences. Described by the website as a “recommendation engine,” Knewton uses both personal history and education research to suggest tailored lessons and activities to fit specific needs. For example, based on the finding that trouble with algebra word problems is more likely due to impaired critical reading skills than any math-related issues, a student struggling with word problems will be directed to reading comprehension exercises. As with other platforms based on user data (such as the tracking of shoppers using discount cards or optimizing Amazon search functions), the platform delivers better content as it collects more data.

Technology such as this is remarkably well-suited to address each of the components of our challenge described above. Students can fill out a survey gauging their knowledge of psychological science, and be directed toward resources to correct any misconceptions. The adaptive learning technology is useful for all students, but will be especially helpful to those experiencing high levels of anxiety by tailoring lesson to their knowledge and taking them at their own pace toward achieving the target objectives. Knewton’s “cross-disciplinary knowledge graphs” will go far in integrating the statistical and methodological concepts learned with the rest of psychology, and it could be programmed to direct students to simulations, research articles, or videos about concepts students are either most interested in or need the most help engaging with. By personalizing the learning experience as much as possible to the needs of each learner, Knewton’s adaptive learning technology can greatly enhance the experience and enjoyment of students in stats and methods courses.

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