How Much Do Students Remember from an Introductory Psychology CourseReport as inadecuate

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Online Submission, Paper presented at the Annual Conference on the Teaching of Psychology: Ideas & Innovations (24th, Tarrytown, NY, Mar 19, 2010)

Nearly 100 students were given a Pre-Test in psychology on the first day of class without warning in order to assess their knowledge of basic course content derived from the prerequisites of the course (PSYC-100 Introduction to Psychology or PSYC-220 Child Development) and other life experiences. This was intended as a low-stakes testing situation, since students were assured that the results were to be used only for curricular/instructional decision making and the results would have no impact upon the student's grade in the course. The Pre-Test was found to explain 12% of the variance in final course grade average. This research report contains an item analysis of the Pre-Test depicting the extent of psychological knowledge students brought with them to the class. The achievement results were very disappointing. For example, only 2 students knew the names and proper order of Piaget's 4 stages of cognitive development. The author hypothesized that even some fundamental psychological knowledge that was retained from previous learning allowed students to more effectively and efficiently re-learn such content for the new target course. This pedagogical research supported the use of the existing pre-requisite for the course, but extreme caution is urged when instructors assume that a substantial and accurate knowledge base in psychology is brought to the learning context based upon satisfying the pre-requisite course requirement. (Contains 3 tables.)

Descriptors: College Students, Introductory Courses, Psychology, Memory, Pretesting, Item Analysis, Prior Learning, Teacher Expectations of Students, Academic Achievement, Prerequisites, College Curriculum, Retention (Psychology), Curriculum Evaluation, Educational Improvement, Higher Education, Course Content, Cognitive Development, Child Development

Author: Herman, William E.


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