Welcome to the Psychology Honors Program. The following outlines the philosophy, the goals, the requirements and the traditions of the psychology honor’s program. This program has been evolving throughout the last 10 years and has benefited from the input of many among our faculty and from wonderful students.
The guiding philosophy behind the program is this: The best and hardest working students from our diverse Temple population should have an equal opportunity to compete with other students from around the world for graduate slots in the area of their choice (e.g., psychology, law, medicine).
To this end, the Honor’s program in psychology is designed to achieve four goals: 1) To provide the student with an integrated panoramic view of the field of psychology; 2) To offer the students an in depth course in the “language” of scientific methodology and in critical thinking; 3) To engage, empower and energize students by having them grapple with key theoretical and research issues within subareas of psychology in ways that encourage them to make independent contributions to the field; and 4) To provide each student with an intimate and individualized experience that will prepare him/her for his/her future career in psychological research or related field.
Implementation of Goals:
To achieve these goals the program is designed as a two-year study that begins with a year long investigation of methodology, critical thinking and writing, and culminates in the production of a senior thesis and student poster session. Students enter the program as 2991 students and must take one semester of 2991 and a consecutive semester of 3991 to complete the full year. The 2991 and 3991 students are required to meet for every class while the upper level students (4991 and 4996) who are working on their independent projects and who need more time with their advisors are required to attend only half of the classes. Thus, the class is fashioned so that lectures form a kind of class within a class. Given this structure, let me demonstrate how each of the goals is realized.
1.) To provide the student with an integrated panoramic view of the field of psychology.
Over the past 20 years, I have read a number of articles focusing on the “fractionation” of psychology. These articles have been published in the American Psychologist, and the “rag” sheet from Division 1 of APA (General Psychology) among other sources. This problem of fractionation is perhaps even more apparent at Temple because of the way in which we present psychology in our Psych 1001 course and because our department is organized through a divisional structure. Perchance we can do no better for our students than to present the field as a group of separate areas. Yet, after struggling with other faculty on this issue at Swarthmore and Haverford Colleges as well as at Temple, I did come up with a way to present us as a more coherent field — through the philosophical assumptions that drive the questions that we ask and through the methodological options that we exercise as a field. Thus, one goal of the honor’s course is to help students see the field as (at least slightly) more coherent than it might at first appear.
To give a broader view of the field and to allow student to experience all aspects of the field, I often present psychology through common themes or problems that bridge the sub disciplines. The thematic approach to psychology has taken a number of different forms throughout years. I always craft this around topics around “burning topics” in the field and the ways in which these topics in our culture help us to frame research questions. Child care research was one model. Other topics to be discussed might include teenage violence, welfare to work, psychology in the workplace, the psychology of boys, education, etc. With the new interest in the burgeoning field of applied psychology, we ask how psychological research — especially field research — might inform policy. The class was to work in groups to design several researchable questions that could be derived from the “burning questions.”
2) To offer the students an in depth course in the “language” of scientific methodology and in critical thinking.
Just as some classes give the panoramic view of the field, the majority of classes supplement the overview with an in depth exploration of methodology. I attempt to yoke some of the methodological discussions to the lectures so that the students get to see methods in a context. The methods class is a bit unconventional in that it is broader than the average method’s class. I begin with an area that many of our brightest students have problems with — how one derives a psychologically interesting question. To this end, I work the students through a bit of the philosophy of science and through a history of psychology before moving to a discussion of methodology per se. In the first semester, we work on issues that arise in field research and towards an understanding of the “true” experimental design. In the second semester, I use the true experimental design as a starting point but instead of praising its virtues, I also talk about its weaknesses. Alternatively, I present a number of other models that can be used within the field to address questions that are not well suited to the true experimental design. This allows the students to see that methods are inherently linked to the questions that we ask. We also discuss how statistics is also a natural partner in this design. From the framing of the question to the creation of a research project, we take a year long journey through methods. Along the way, we also pay special attention to writing: be it mastery of APA style, writing of critiques, etc. By the time that the students exit, they are at least familiar with the methodological language of our field and they have seen how methods play centrally into our scientific discipline.
3) To engage, empower and energize students by having them grapple with key issues within subareas of psychology in ways that encourage them to make independent contributions to the field.
Even the best and brightest students enter this class as passive learners and as mediocre writers. Memorization has been viewed as a key to receiving an A. Performance, rather than process, is viewed as the key to learning. In this class, I stress students’ role as active learners and explorers. Teaching through dialogue and Socratic method, students come to own rather than to just learn the material. Throughout the classroom discussions, professional writing, and independent research experiences, students are transformed into scientists taking a new pride in their accomplishments. They leave the program with the necessary critical thinking, professional writing, and research skills necessary to pave their way to future success.
4) To provide each student with an intimate and individualized experience that will prepare him/her for his/her future career.
Temple is a big school. Thus, even our best students sometimes recede into the background becoming one among many faces. To ensure that all of you get the attention and preparation you deserve, I elected to become the academic advisor for each of the students in the honor’s program. I not only go over their roster each semester, but make suggestions about classes, minor areas for study and graduate programs. I read every application before they send it to the graduate programs and help them to write the strongest possible statements. I also write recommendations for them and will make introductory phone calls where appropriate. While this takes a fair amount of time, I have found over the years that our students need this extra support. It is critically important that this system stay in place and that time be made to shepherd them through the graduate application system as many have no models for graduate study beyond the thesis advisor and the honor’s advisor. Getting to know the students is not only a wonderful experience for the advisor, but is also invaluable for them so that the recommendations are not bland when they apply to graduate school.
Requirements of the Program:
GPA: Students are invited into the course based on their GPA or a faculty letter of recommendation. At the end of the second year, I obtain a list of all the students’ names who have achieved a GPA of 3.5 or greater. These students are invited to an initiation and are recruited into our program. Students are required to maintain a 3.5 GPA throughout the duration of the honors program.
Scientific Writing Prerequisite: Students must complete the Scientific Thinking course prior to entering the honors program and should have strong background knowledge of APA writing style and professional, technical writing. Upon entering Honors, students will develop these skills further by reading and critically evaluating research articles through class discussions and writing requirements.
Honors & Psychology Major Course Requirements: Our students fulfill all of the psychology requirements, save one: they are not required to take a methods class. They also have to take extra courses in the form of 2991, 3991, 4991, and 4996. The latter two courses are taken when the student has chosen an advisor and is ready to begin independent research. It is important to note that while the program is designed as a two-year program, some do take it in three semesters — taking 3991 and 4991 at the same time.
Honors Thesis: Upon completion of the program, students must submit a written thesis to their major research advisor and to the honors teaching assistant. Writing a thesis is unlike any other paper you have written. It is a long process that requires planning, multiple drafts, and constructive feedback. Recommended timeline: Students should begin the literature review during 2991 & 3991 (e.g., gathering and reading articles/chapters of interest & relevant to the lab). By the end of 3991, students should continue the literature review and hone in on one specific research area, identify one research question they will address for their thesis project, and outline a basic research design on how to address the question. By the end of 4991, students should be conducting their research and have the first partial draft of the thesis completed (e.g., the introduction and methods sections). By midsemester of 4996, all students should have a full thesis draft (intro, methods, results, discussion) completed and submitted to their advisor and a secondary reader for review/comments. Lastly, all students are required to submit their honors final honors thesis to their research advisor (by his/her designated deadline) and to the honors teaching assistant by the finals deadline.
**NOTE: students should sit down with their advisors to work out a realistic schedule to conduct research and submit drafts of the thesis to ensure timely progress.
Honors Poster Session & Research Forums: Students must also participate in the Honors Poster session that is open to the entire department. These poster sessions have always been wonderful opportunities for the students to show off their work. Recently, I have also strongly encouraged our students to also participate in the Undergraduate APA research forums. The poster session is held either at the end of the both semesters, or if few are graduating at the end of Winter term, at the end of the Spring term. Students work with advisors to create a poster that is like those presented at professional conferences.
Administrative Duties and Traditions:
Along with the regular program, there are certain traditions that have become associated with the Honor’s program. Some of them are carried out each year and some only occasionally — or when student energy is high enough.
a) Psi Chi: Honor’s students are encouraged to join the psychology honor society.
b) Graduate application meeting: In October of each year, we also have a meeting about applying to graduate school in which I outline how to write an application letter and how to research for appropriate graduate programs.
c) GRE Prep: Also in October — before the GRE, we often meet to discuss strategies for taking the GRE Exams and go over some of the kinds of questions that will be asked.
d) Grades: Grades for 2991 and 3991 are assigned by the class instructor. In general, grades are based upon written assignments and a final examination. It is important to note that I have in the past given 2 to 3 papers per term and have allowed students multiple rewrites on these papers. It is expected that each draft will be the students best work and incorporate all feedback provided for the rewrites. Students can choose not to rewrite a paper and to receive the original grade. They rarely make that choice, however. Thus, in general, students turn in two to three papers for every one paper assigned.
For 4991 and 4996, grades are assigned based on the students’ participation in class, their quality of work in their lab, and the quality of their final thesis project. Thus, it is important to get input from the major advisor. Evaluation forms are sent two weeks prior to the end of the semester to solicit feedback from the major advisor. On these forms, I indicate how the student has done in the classes and ask for written comments in a number of different areas. The questions on the evaluation form were derived with student input and are kept on file so that the student can see them if their advisor gives permission.
PSYCHOLOGY OF LANGUAGE
Infants start out with no language. By the end of the first year, they say their first words and by the end of the second year, they are speaking in full sentences. How do they achieve this? During this class you will come to appreciate how infants conquer the “seemingly impossible” task of learning a language. The rules involved in language processing are at least as complex as those used in a master’s game of chess. Yet, infants raised in a normal environment have no problem in inducing these rules and in using them correctly from the beginning. This fact puts language development at the core of cognitive development, for language is, as Chomsky has said, a “window onto the human mind.”
The developmental core course is designed to give graduate students a panoramic view of developmental theory and current issues in the field. With up-to-date readings, and an eye towards application, we explore everything from brain development in infancy to juvenile delinquency in adolescence.