ERIC Number: ED200464
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980
An Example of the Quality of Students' Understanding: Initial Conceptions of Psychology.
Gibbs, Graham; And Others
This paper discusses a survey undertaken to determine conceptions of psychology held by college students in an introductory social science course. Twenty-nine students were queried at the beginning of the course regarding the open-ended question, "If Esso garages were to invite a psychologist to improve the efficiency of petrol pump attendants, what sort of things would the psychologist do?" Review of transcripts of tape-recorded responses indicated that answers could be categorized into nine distinct conceptions of psychology and the role of psychologists. The nine conceptions were: (1) personnel officers/career guidance counselors, (2) arbitrators, (3) witch doctors, (4) ergonomists (organization and management consultants), (5) community workers, (6) environmental psychologists, (7) market researchers, (8) social psychologists, and (9) motivators. An overview of these responses indicated that students in the introductory social science course perceived psychology as a discipline based on processes which are subjective and intuitive rather than objective and scientific. Specifically, no students mentioned any areas of activity related to experimental psychology which embodied scientific method. Even those students who characterized psychologists as people who collected evidence and wrote it down--the market researcher conception--failed to recognize that there was any systematic use made of that evidence. One implication of this study is that educators will improve students' understandings of key ideas in psychology if they take into account the nature of pre-course conceptions of the discipline among students when designing curriculum and setting course objectives. (DB)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Open Univ., Walton, Bletchley, Bucks (England). Inst. of Educational Technology.