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PSYCH 356: Educational Psychology: Introduction

A course guide for Psych 356, taught in Fall 2013 by Prof. Kai Cortina.

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Psych 438 Research Guide

This guide will help you get started with your papers for Psych 437. 

About your Assignment

Term Papers

Students write two term papers, one at the end of the first half of the semester (due the Sunday after fall study break) and one towards the end of the semester (due Sunday, Dec 15). A goal of the term paper is for you to become familiar with mainstream journals in educational psychology (for a list of the most appropriate journals, see Appropriate Journals). For the first term paper, a list of topics will be provided. For the second paper, students can choose their own educational topics to investigate in depth. You are encouraged to choose an issue that is personally relevant to you. 

The paper should combine expository and narrative writing skills, that is, the paper should be a report of research in educational psychology interwoven with your own evaluations and experiences. Your term paper will

  1. focus on one of the issues listed below or a topic of your choice confirmed by your GSI,

  2. use at least five educational psychology journal articles from 2000 to the present,

  3. be original and written individually by each student,

  4. be written in accordance with the APA publication guidelines, and

  5. be, including references, at least 5 but not more than 7 pages long (double spaces, Times Roman 12, 1 inch margins) 

Possible topics for term papers

1.      Pretend you are a new advisor to a Presidential candidate and you are asked to write a position paper on the importance of preschool education.  Consider such questions as:  Should America establish universal preschool for children? What age should it begin and what should the daily curriculum include? What are the developmental advantages and disadvantages? 

2.      Research and document the various ages that children begin formal schooling in at least 3 countries around the world.  Discuss why there is so much variation and whether there is a “best” age to begin school.  Consider cultural and economic factors along with educational and psychological factors that influence the ages that children begin school. 

3.      A persistent problem facing American teachers is how to teach children who struggle more than others in the class to learn and master the curriculum.  Choose and describe a struggling student at any grade level (perhaps one you know or one you have observed) whose problem is based on a learning disability, a native language other than English, poverty, recent immigration, or other handicapping condition.  Analyze the reasons for the student’s difficulties AND the reasons for the teacher’s difficulties in addressing the student’s needs. Pretend you are a school psychologist who examines the dynamics of learning and teaching for this particular classroom, and then must provide grade-appropriate suggestions for helping the student and teacher.  

4.      Researchers have suggested that there is a mismatch between the organization, instruction, and curriculum of middle and high schools in America with the developmental and social changes and needs of adolescents.  Explain the bases for the mismatches, why they are difficult to change, and what better options might be tried in schools. 

5.      Researchers have shown that students construct ideas and concepts from the school curriculum, but they also construct misconceptions or incorrect ideas.   Choose a discipline, such as reading, math, or science, and describe the kinds of misconceptions that students construct, providing support for your claims.  Be specific about the age and nature of the misconception and explain the reasons for the misconceptions. Provide advice to teachers about ways to prevent the misconceptions or what you might do if you were tutoring the child with these misconceptions. 

6.      Many east Asian countries (such as Singapore, China, Japan) score highly on tests of international academic achievement, but they are criticized sometimes for producing students who are good at memorizing facts but are not creative thinkers. Argue for or against this position and support your position with references. Pretend you are an external consultant who has been asked either (a) how to improve the creativity of students in one of the Asian countries or (b) how to improve the achievement of American students.  What advice would you give? 

7.      Describe some examples of adaptive (positive) or maladaptive (negative) motivational approaches that students (maybe you or your friends) have used in K-12.  Analyze the reasons for the approaches and relate the issues to the literature. Then describe what kinds of teachers and learning environments promote either the positive or negative motivational orientations.  How can the classroom environment change or sustain students’ motivational patterns? 

8.      Compare and contrast at least three teaching styles, such as whole group instruction, collaborative learning, peer tutoring, authoritarian, and so forth.  Choose a particular grade level and explain the positive and negative features of each style. Relate the instructional styles to your own experiences and explain why the pedagogies were effective or not.  

9.      Research and compare how at least two different states in the USA use high stakes testing for accountability, for example, Michigan vs New York.  Describe the intended and unintended consequences of the high stakes testing for students, teachers, and parents.  Relate your own experiences with high-stakes testing and then consider how the same tests affected other students in your community who were less-prepared or less-able to succeed on the tests. 

10.   Imagine that you were asked by a school district to design classroom assessments that would help students learn more effectively and would help teachers deliver better instruction. (Choose elementary, middle, or high school.) Describe what kinds of assessments you would recommend and support your advice with evidence. 

11.   You may choose other topics, but the choice must be approved by your GSI first.  The topic should be connected to the content of this course and the reading materials, and it should have adequate research evidence that will allow you to find good sources and references. 

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