I’m developing a course on research design and methodology, aimed at psychology students but applicable to those interested in social science research. Because this is typically a lower-level course and not all students will eventually be experimental psychologists, I am placing an equal emphasis on building general professional skills (e.g., technical writing) and knowledge of course content. Don’t get me wrong; I think that knowledge of research design and methods is crucial to aspiring scientists and to science literacy in general. But I also think that courses (especially lower-level courses) have a responsibility to teach more than the content that is nowadays easily accessible online. I believe that this general skill training is part of what will keep universities relevant when domain content is no longer a commodity.
In addition to verbally telling students that these are my intentions, but I also want them written down so that students can hold me responsible. To do this, I formatted my course goals (which will be in the syllabus) in a way that treats general skill development and foundational knowledge as equals. Of course, many instructors say they are going to help students develop teamwork skills, for example, but in my experience, the extent of that help is typically giving them a team project. Creating an experience in which the skill would be helpful, however, isn’t the same as helping students develop that skill. I will give students explicit instruction (whether from me or an outside speaker) or have workshops to build these skills, and I will provide opportunities to work on them during the course. I will also assign a significant number of assessment points for these skills. For example, 25-33% of any written work that students turn in will be based on quality of writing.
Research Design and Methodology Course Goals
By the end of this courses, students will …
- Understand research in terms of
- Appropriate design for answering research questions
- Appropriate methods for addressing trade-offs in research
- Appropriate conclusions for types of data
- Complete a research project that includes
- Designing research and selecting methods through an iterative process of creative and critical thinking
- Implementing research using appropriate design and methods
- Analyzing data using appropriate tests for levels of measurement
- Drawing accurate conclusions using appropriate levels of analysis
- Write reports that apply knowledge of methodology to assess the practical contributions and limitations of scientific research presented in entertainment, news, and scholarly articles
- Improve professional skills including (based on current level of skill)
- Justifying design choices
- Explaining methods to others with different backgrounds
- Technical writing
- Presenting work
- Working in a team
- Be able to identify research questions and conduct research using appropriate design, methods, and analysis after this course
- Compare general psychological research methods to methods used in other disciplines or specific fields of psychology
For more on creating course goals — Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 82-92.
For more information about the course design series or more course design posts, visit the course design series introduction.