ERIC Number: EJ850399
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Reference Count: 18
The Utility of a College Major: Do Students of Psychology Learn Discipline-Specific Knowledge?
Sanders-Dewey, Neva E. J.; Zaleski, Stephanie A.
Journal of General Education, v58 n1 p19-27 2009
In the field of psychology, one subject the authors presume students learn about during their pursuit of a degree in this discipline is that of psychopathology. Support for this belief, however, often relies upon the erroneous supposition that a passing grade on course assignments, on exams, or in courses themselves means knowledge acquisition. Empirical evidence to support the actual obtainment of such discipline-specific information is lacking. To assess this supposition of knowledge acquisition via the completion of discipline-specific courses, they constructed a variation of the Lamal (1995) study by utilizing a pretest/posttest design with a variety of psychology courses as the intervention. In summary, this study was designed to address two questions: (1) whether taking a psychology course results in an incremental gain of factual knowledge of mental illness; and (2) if such gains occur, whether this increase is more related to participation in a course specifically designed to address this topic (e.g., Abnormal Psychology or Child Psychopathology), to the cumulative effect of taking assorted courses on interrelated topics (i.e., number of psychology courses taken), or to other variables (e.g., demographics, educational characteristics). Students registered at a private four-year liberal arts college located in western New York enrolled in one of four psychology courses (i.e., Introduction to Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Behavior Modification, or Child Psychopathology) participated in the study. Results indicate that in general, students know more about mental illness upon completion of a psychology class regardless of the course within which they were enrolled. Whereas significant changes did occur between pretest and posttest measures of mental illness knowledge in most classes, a significant difference remained between scores obtained by individuals completing upper-division versus lower- division courses. The authors emphasize that establishing the obtainment of discipline-specific knowledge is merely the first step in this research process; more research is necessary to ascertain if this knowledge is a formidable foundation upon which to build real-world vocational skills and whether it is related to future employability and successful career outcomes. (Contains 5 tables.)
Descriptors: Majors (Students), Mental Disorders, Pretests Posttests, Behavior Modification, Psychopathology, Liberal Arts, Intellectual Disciplines, Child Psychology, College Students, Predictor Variables, Job Skills, Employment Potential, Instructional Effectiveness, Outcomes of Education
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York