This is the first year where I’ve had free reign over my courses. I can make my own syllabi and do whatever I want with my classes. (Yay to being a new faculty member!) As I sat down to prepare my syllabi, I was given some advice from my department chair; she told me that our students typically aren’t great test takers. Okay, no problem. This got me thinking about other ways that students can engage with the material.
I’m still requiring that my students take 4 exams, but I made them worth slightly less points (50 each). (In my Gen Psyc class, I was able to work the schedule so the final exam is optional.) Freeing up those points allowed me to create other projects that give the students opportunities to get more hands-on with the material. For instance, in all of my content courses, I now have students complete in-class activities (10 pts each), reading quizzes (10 points each), an oral presentation (75 pts), and an article summary (50 pts). My General Psychology course also has a poster presentation (75 pts) and research participation requirement (100 pts; more on this to come later), and my upper level Cognitive Psychology course has to write a research proposal (75 pts).
These varied assignments give my students lots of opportunities to engage with course material in a meaningful way (i.e., they could learn something from it) that doesn’t rely on their ability to memorize information and requires greater reflection. On the first day of class, I explained this to them. It may look like there’s a lot of work ahead of them this semester, but these different types of projects mean that most of their grade isn’t dependent upon exams. Hopefully they feel as positively about it as I do.
To give some context, my institution (William Peace University) is a small liberal arts school with approximately 800 students total. The student body is about 40% athletes and 30% first generation with the majority of the the students growing up in the local region. General Psychology is my biggest class with 25 students enrolled, and Cognitive Psychology currently has about 10 students enrolled.
For now I’ll attach my syllabi (see below), but as I generate detailed assignment descriptions and rubrics, I’ll share them here as well!
General Psychology syllabus
Cognitive Psychology syllabus
written by Jen Blush