In fall 2022, the Open Education Network (OEN) selected 15 teams to participate in the initial cohort of the Certificate in Open Educational Practices (OEP). Teams of one librarian and one faculty member created action plans that enabled them to collaboratively redesign curriculum for accessibility, inclusion, and student-centeredness.
Now in the homestretch, these teams are implementing their action plans at higher education institutions throughout the U.S. We’re catching up with a few teams for a glimpse of their resourcefulness and key takeaways as they engage with open pedagogy. This interview was conducted by Tonia Johnson, Digital Content Strategist for the Open Education Network.
Victoria Taylor is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) in Largo, Maryland. Jeffrey Potter is PGCC Interim Director – Library & Learning Resources, and together the two have teamed up to implement an OEP pilot study in eight sections of Psychology 1010. Their goal: to close the gap in student readiness for reading, understanding, and conducting research in general psychology courses.
Victoria and Jeffrey, thank you for allowing us a look at your OEP project and its impact on psychology pedagogy. Welcome! Let’s talk about what you’ve found.
Pedagogically, what does PSY 1010 (General Psychology) typically entail?
Victoria: General Psychology is often an introductory course that provides a broad overview of the field of psychology. It covers various fundamental topics such as the history of psychology, research methods, biological bases of behavior, learning and memory, cognitive processes, personality, social psychology, and psychological disorders.
In terms of pedagogy, general psychology courses usually involve a combination of lectures, readings from a textbook or other relevant sources, class discussions, multimedia presentations, and sometimes demonstrations or experiments to engage learners and help them understand psychological concepts. In PSY 1010, there are two assessments: an end-of-semester research project and a cumulative final exam which allows for academic freedom in creating course assignments, activities, and other assessments across the semester.
How does the library customarily support PSY 1010 students?
Jeffrey: Librarians typically provide in-person and embedded instruction that allows time for hands-on database searching. Online classes have librarian research support in a discussion forum for one week after the instruction session. Research consultations are also available. The library maintains a course guide, research tutorial, and psychology database videos to support independent student learning. For this project, I built a library module that includes a resource list, quizzes, learning activities, database tutorials, and a lecture.
This semester the course incorporates a new assignment based on open educational practices. How have students responded to this task of selecting and reviewing a scholarly article, then creating an annotated bibliography?
Jeffrey: From my observations, students are selecting better scholarly articles that match their topic and meet assignment requirements. Students are demonstrating more confidence in defining peer review and explaining what their article is about. It's good to see that our new teaching approaches are leading to higher success rates in these PSY 1010 courses.
Victoria: Overwhelmingly, our learners reported that incorporation of an academic librarian into the classroom for one week was helpful in selecting a peer-reviewed article. Similarly, the majority across all eight PSY1010 sections said they’re now more comfortable navigating the college’s research databases, and 87% said they found our scaffolded course activities to be beneficial.
What are the primary learning objectives of this assignment?
Victoria: The assignment focuses predominantly on helping students achieve course learning objectives:
- Explain major psychological concepts, theories, and perspectives.
- Describe research methods and tools used by psychologists to understand and explain behavior.
- Apply psychological concepts to personal, social, and organizational issues.
- Use appropriate technology to obtain scholarly information for the purpose of writing or making presentations on relevant psychological topics.
We want students to recognize that each activity maps onto one or more of these course objectives. And this work also provides hands-on practice with APA formatting.
Which stage tends to challenge students, and how do you support them?
Jeffrey: I’ve found that a few students are challenged by how they will use the scholarly article in the course assignment. Sometimes I ask them specifically, is it the results? A paragraph? An idea, a claim or a fact? A cited reference? Victoria and I both monitor the research discussion forum and share feedback so students have librarian and instructor directions to help find and use scholarly articles.
Victoria: Even for short terms, I spend weeks communicating back and forth with learners providing tips and pointing out where to look for the criteria in the scholarly peer-reviewed article. We, as faculty, cannot assume learners who enter our general psychology courses have taken a course that has required them to use APA formatting.
Is there a facet of this assignment that you’re likely to modify?
Victoria: Getting students to focus their searches on the psychology databases in PGCC’s online library remains a challenge. Because Jeffrey’s module is not graded, learners must be intrinsically motivated to take advantage of the information and help made available to them. A potential modification would be to assign points to that module.
Beyond that, I do not intend to modify the scaffolded assignments at this time because I have collected data and found a consistent request for exemplary works. The implementation of our OEP action plan produced the artifact learners have been requesting for years: Inaugural Psychology in My Life Compendium - May 2023 (1st vol/1st ed). The OEN's Certificate in Open Educational Practices helped us collaboratively develop a strategy to close the gap in student readiness for reading, understanding, and conducting research.
How does research readiness impact student success?
Jeffrey: There is some evidence of library anxiety possibility from students having to complete a college level research assignment, use new research skills, and locate academic materials. I’ve seen this in cited references shared in the research discussion forum, mostly from first-year students. I’d say research proficiency is necessary, but can be learned.
Victoria: Learning to navigate the psychology subject databases and becoming more familiar with how to read, unpack, and summarize scholarly peer-reviewed, data-driven studies in general psychology prepares students for upper-level psychology courses where minimal help is expected and offered.
Do you see growth potential for this OEP endeavor?
Victoria: Ongoing development of the Psychology in My Life Compendium will build on the collection of exemplar works from learners enrolled in my general psychology courses. The aim is twofold. The first goal is to produce three editions (fall, spring, and summer) per volume with the expectation that future learners will benefit from a plethora of examples to view and inspire their own ideas. The second goal is to encourage other faculty to develop the same artifact for their general psychology courses.
Any observations you’d like to share with higher ed faculty or librarians?
Jeffrey: Plan, implement, and evaluate. We talked about the students, the course, and what gaps existed. We sketched a few solutions, used the best one, and reviewed it afterwards. The data and student feedback really helped refine the overall learning experience for PSY 1010 students. For librarians, be sure to align your content, activities, and resources to the course outcomes and learning objectives.
Victoria: It was extremely beneficial to conduct a needs assessment. During the implementation stage, it was important to keep copious notes and records in the learning management system as well as Excel or a similar software to input data for analysis. Last, in addition to the summative evaluation, the scaffolded activities provided a means of collecting formative assessments of students’ understanding and progress across the semester.
What’s on the open education horizon for you?
Jeffrey: One area that I want to explore is open educational resources (OER) improvement and learning analytics. PGCC created a number of OER over the last few years. It might be a good space for librarian-faculty collaboration.
Victoria: Currently, I am working on a grant application for the 2023 American Psychological Association’s Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention and Training (CEMRRAT). Our focus area is faculty development with the aim of sharing the framework from OEN for developing and implementing the same or similar action research pilot studies in other psychology faculty’s courses.
Anything you’d like to add?
Jeffrey: Be open to the opportunities and possibilities of open education.
Victoria: A move toward open educational practices will require a commitment from faculty to do the front-loaded work necessary to move in that direction.
Interested in implementing OEP on your campus? Learn more at the OEN Certificate in Open Educational Practices webpage or email Tanya Grosz, Director of Educational Programs for the OEN.
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