22 SES 14 A, Currriculum Development in Higher Education
The research presented in this paper is part of a wider project on psychology students’ learning of research methods (from which initial findings were presented at the ECER last year), and we will present findings from two studies: Study 1 is a qualitative exploration of students’ experiences, expectations, and feelings. Study 2 is a quantitative longitudinal study that aims to identify developmental trajectories along with risk and resource factors for students’ success in their journey through the research methods curriculum.
A key part of teaching in psychology concerns research methods and statistics, with it providing a basis to the vast majority of both transferable and subject-specific skills required in a psychology degree, as well as being one of the core modules required in accredited courses across Europe. Existing literature acknowledges that university students find courses in research methods challenging (Edwards & Thatcher, 2004), and that research methods are often viewed as complex and technical in nature (Ball & Pelco, 2006). However, most of the research conducted so far has focused on evaluating the outcomes of research methods learning, with few studies addressing the development of learning. Recent research has demonstrated that learning processes are key, and that personality factors such as learning approach, motivation, self-regulation metacognition, and academic self-efficacy, may play a significant role in the success of learning (Richardson, Abraham & Bond 2012).
Previous research has identified several cognitive and meta-cognitive variables that are important for psychology students’ learning: Deep approaches and strategic approaches to learning have been positively correlated with the final module mark, as well as self-efficacy. A similar finding was reported in a more recent study (Trigwell, Ellis, & Han, 2012), showing that a deep approach was related to positive emotions such as pride and hope, while a surface approach was related to negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and boredom. However, research of research methods learning has mainly been focused on test and statistics anxiety (e.g., Field, 2014; Hanna, Shevlin, & Dempster, 2008; Rodarte-Luna & Sherry, 2008), and studies measuring other emotional factors that could influence research methods learning are missing.
Based on the control-value theory (Pekrun, 2006) of achievement emotions, it is assumed that emotions facilitate the use of different learning strategies and promote self-regulated learning. Positive emotions such as enjoyment, hope, and pride are thought to promote both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, facilitate use of flexible learning strategies, and support self-regulation, thus positively affecting academic performance. Some negative emotions, such as anxiety, may also have a positive effect by increasing extrinsic motivation to invest effort to avoid failure, whereas other negative emotions such as boredom tend to reduce motivation and the use of self-regulated learning. (Goetz, Frenzel, Barchfeld, & Perry, 2011).This relationship between motivation and emotions plays an important role in learning achievements (Pekrun, 2006). Since, research methods modules tend to introduce anxiety as well as negative emotions in general, investigating emotions in conjunction with cognitive and metacognitive variables related to learning appears especially valuable. Insights into this currently under-researched area promise to be beneficial in improving overall learning for psychology students at university, which his ties in with European governmental frameworks (e.g., the UK’s Teaching and Excellence Framework TEF, which aims to raise teaching standards and improve student learning), as well as the with the European Higher Education Area’s (EHEA) vision to improve lifelong learning.
This presentation will yield insights into psychology students’ feelings and attitudes towards research methods (Study 1), as well as into the longitudinal interplay between learning approaches, motivation, self-efficacy, self-regulation, and academic emotions in learning processes (Study 2).
Data for both studies were collected from BSc psychology students at the University of Westminster, London, UK. Study 1: Focus group Two focus groups were conducted during the autumn term of 2018, with one acting as a pilot. The focus groups consisted of a total of seven participants, with 6 females and 1 male second year undergraduates. Participants were asked questions related to their experiences, expectations feelings toward research methods during their first year of university, as well as about any challenges faced learning strategies used .( e.g. “How was your experience studying on the Research Methods module?, “What sort of learning strategies/techniques did you use to learn in this module?”) The focus groups where audio-recorded and lasted for 28 minutes (pilot) and 1 hour and 15 minutes (main study). The data was transcribed and subsequently analysed using thematic analysis. Study 2: Longitudinal study The first part of the longitudinal study was conducted during the three first weeks of students’ introduction to psychological research methods module. The sample consisted of 100+ (data collection still in progress) first-year psychology undergraduates. We aim to collect data from the whole cohort of students in this year. Participants were asked to complete a survey with demographic information (gender, age, ethnicity and socio-economic status, educational background of the family), as well as questionnaires measuring motivation, self-efficacy, self-regulation (MSLQ, Pintrich & De Groot, 1990), learning approaches (Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students, Entwistle, 2013), statistics anxiety (Statistics Course Anxiety scale, Hong & Karstensson, 2002) and learning-related emotions (Achievement emotions Questionnaire, Pekrun, Goetz,& Perry, 2005). The data obtained from the surveys will be used as a first point of measurement for a year-long study with two subsequent measurement points to follow into students second year of their studies (hence covering their journey through research methods modules).The data will be analysed in conjunction with student’s behavioural data (attendance of seminars and lectures, and their activities on the university’s online learning platform), as well as grades, using linear statistical modelling. Data from the first point of measurement will also be analysed separately, in order to explore differences based on students’ background, as well as correlations between the (meta-)cognitive and the affective variables.
Study 1: From the thematic analysis of the focus group data, a variety of codes and themes emerged. Almost all of the students indicated that they had gone through different feelings during the course of their first year research methods module, with one of the prominent themes identified being “Emotional Shift”: Most commonly, student seemed to go from finding research methods boring and difficult in the beginning, to finding it quite straightforward and at parts even enjoyable by the end. Another identified theme was the “Fluctuating Learning Approaches “. The findings indicate that the parts of the course students enjoyed the most were related to using SPSS and conducting statistical analysis, whereas applying scientific research skills to writing was seen as a challenge. A third important theme that emerged was that students’ lacked seeing the “importance of research methods” for their future career: Although there was general agreement among the students that research methods is important for the psychology degree itself, most of the students indicated that they would not be needing research methods in their future career. Study 2: Data for this longitudinal study is currently being collected. We expect that the findings will provide an understanding of the relations between students’ motivation, cognitive–metacognitive strategies, affective variables, behaviour, as well as learning performance and satisfaction by looking at the process and developmental trends. The first part of the study specifically will provide insights into metacognitive and affective factors that might be related and influential in the learning of research methods. Taken together, these findings will contribute to a deeper understanding of students’ experience of and journey through their research methods curriculum. While we focus on psychology students, we hope that our findings will be valuable for other degrees with research methods components (e.g., education).
BIS - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2016a) Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, May 2016, CM9258 Field, A. P. (2014). Skills in Mathematics and Statistics in Psychology and tackling transition The Higher Education Academy STEM project series. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/resources/tt_maths_psychology.pdf.pdf Goetz, T., Frenzel, A. C., Barchfeld, P., & Perry, R. P. (2011). Measuring emotions in students’ learning and performance: The Achievement Emotions Questionnaire (AEQ). Contemporary Educational Psychology, 36(1), 36–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.CEDPSYCH.2010.10.002 Hanna, D., Shevlin, M., & Dempster, M. (2008). The structure of the statistics anxiety rating scale: A confirmatory factor analysis using UK psychology students. Personality and individual differences, 45(1), 68-74.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2008.02.021 Hong, E., & Karstensson, L. (2002). Antecedents of state test anxiety. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 27(2), 348-367. Pekrun, R. (2006). The Control-Value Theory of Achievement Emotions: Assumptions, Corollaries, and Implications for Educational Research and Practice. Educational Psychology Review, 18(4), 315–341. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-006-9029-9 Pekrun, R., Götz, T., & Perry, R. P. (2005). Achievement emotions questionnaire (AEQ). User’s manual. Unpublished Manuscript, University of Munich, Munich. Pintrich, P. R., & De Groot, E. V. (1990). Motivational and self-regulated learning components of classroom academic performance. Journal of educational psychology, 82(1), 33. Richardson, M., Abraham, C., & Bond, R. (2012). Psychological correlates of university students' academic performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 138(2), 353. Rodarte-Luna, B., & Sherry, A. (2008). Sex differences in the relation between statistics anxiety and cognitive/learning strategies. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 33(2), 327–344. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.CEDPSYCH.2007.03.002 Trapp, A., Banister, P., Ellis, J., Latto, R., Miell, D., & Upton, D. (2011). The future of undergraduate psychology in the United Kingdom. York, UK: UK Higher Education Academy Psychology Network. Trigwell, K., Ellis, R. A., & Han, F. (2012). Relations between students’ approaches to learning, experienced emotions and outcomes of learning. Studies in Higher Education, 37(7), 811–824. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2010.549220
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