PSY 310

Western Kentucky University, Fall 2011, Spring 2012

Course Description: In this course, students (most of them seeking teacher certification) explore the theories and principles of educational psychology and apply them to teaching and learning.  The course includes units in development, individual differences, learning, memory, motivation, instruction, classroom management, and measurement and evaluation.

AN ACTIVE ROLE IN LEARNING

Classroom Session Participation

Students created a poster about Piaget's formal operational stage.

Student working together to create a poster about Piaget's formal operational stage

Students contribute to what happens during the classroom sessions.  For example, in one class, students investigated a topic for discussion (problem-based learning) through exploration of websites, teaching materials, videos, and journal articles.  After summarizing their sources, the students posted what they considered their best source on the class blog.  The classroom session centered around students standing up and sharing their sources with everyone from the blog, followed by deeper discussion of the topic.

Our unit about personal, social, and moral development was constructed around discussion of a series of scenarios about people dealing with various types of identity development.  Using Cmap Tools software, the students and I created a concept map to illustrate the path of our discussion.  We used theory to frame and interpret the discussion scenarios and the students’ own examples.

In another class, the students participated in a “jigsaw” session, during which they created posters about each of Piaget’s four developmental stages.  Individual groups presented their information to the class.

Problem-Based Learning Project

One of our major efforts is a semester long problem-based learning project in which the students work in groups to address this problem: “You are part of a teacher committee responsible for developing a learning, enrichment, or development program for students or teachers (to meet a ‘compelling need’).  Like many schools, yours has limited resources (material, financial, staff-related, etc.).”  Given these parameters, the students collaborate in interest-based groups (such as math education or arts education) to design a program and identify grant funding relevant to their project.  Their work is solidly grounded in educational psychology theory and research.

To scaffold the students’ learning experience, they submit multiple drafts of their group work and create individual portfolios.  Additionally, special classroom speakers from the Western Kentucky University Library and the Conserve School in Wisconsin (via Skype!) introduced the students to the world of searching for grants and program development from a teacher and school administrator’s point of view.  Three classroom work sessions during the semester allow the student groups to work with me to explore the direction of their projects.  Students are encouraged to use online collaborative tools to facilitate their work.

Diverse Learning Experiences

In-class writing, classroom discussions around a variety of course topics, special speakers, traditional lectures, and a field trip to the on-campus Kentucky Museum expose students to real-world environments and ideas where educational psychology theory may be applied.  Homework assignments, such as investigating topics on the web or critiquing museum exhibits, are designed to bridge in-class and out-of-class learning experiences.