Two American International College professors recently presented at the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s Best Practices Conference in Atlanta, Ga.

Anne Stuart of Palmer, an associate professor of psychology, and Sandra Sego of West Springfield, a professor and chair of the undergraduate psychology department, presented two different talks at the conference, which focused on Best Practices in Teaching Statistics and Research Methods.

Their first talk was titled “Just do it: A hands-on approach to research methods." Sego said,"In this talk, we discussed the active learning approach that we use in the PSY315 Experimental Psychology class. Students collect and analyze data from an observational study; create a survey and collect data on it, and do an experiment. This allows students to gain experience with different research methods before they do their final project."

The professors presented a model where students conduct the three main types of research done in the social sciences: observational studies, surveys, and experiments. Students participate in these projects by designing materials, collecting data, and analyzing the results as the topics are covered in class. "Rather than pure lecture, class time is devoted to discussing and critiquing the projects as a way to enhance textbook material. Students can weigh the advantages and disadvantages of these different research designs in order to develop their own research projects," Sego said.

Stuart said the second talk was titled “Bridging the gap between statistics and research methods. "We discussed how we have structured the PSY328 Advanced Statistics course to help students develop a conceptual understanding of statistics, knowing which analysis to do and being able to interpret the results of the test," she said.

According to Sego and Stuart, professors and researchers understand how crucial a strong statistical background is for good research methodology. However, students often fail to appreciate the importance of statistics. "Our department takes a sequential approach across courses in order to integrate statistics and research methodology," Stuart said. "By introducing, reinforcing, and emphasizing the interdependence of statistics and research methodology across courses, we provide our students a foundation from which they can develop and conduct independent research."

The Society for Teaching Psychology is a part of the American Psychological Association’s Division II.