Student-created Hypertexts and the Understanding of Psychology

Stephen Provost

Abstract


Teaching psychology in a Faculty of Science presents some interesting, and slightly unusual academic challenges. Students are convinced that psychology is a “helping profession”, and that gaining a degree with the word “psychology” in it will prepare them for a rich and rewarding career assisting individuals to improve their well-being. Academic psychologists know, of course, that Psychology is a Scientific Discipline, and that a good education in the intricate, and extremely diverse, theories which support it, as well as a solid dose of statistical training, must precede any opportunity to be let loose on an unsuspecting public. The difficult balance between science and practice in psychology provides a never-ending source for curriculum design and redesign, professional accreditation anxiety, and a steady stream of disillusioned students.

The CAUT-funded project which I conducted in 1995 and 1996 was designed to allow me to implement and evaluate the usefulness of collaborative, student-created hypertext as a teaching method in a conventional psychology subject (PSYC311, Associative Learning). The intention was that hypertext creation would lead to more effective understanding of the theoretical content in this subject. What was revealed, however, is that allowing students more scope in the kinds of media which they may employ to meet assessment requirements created an environment in which they could successfully articulate the relationship between this theoretical content and the practical application of this knowledge. Students created quite beautiful hypertext markup language documents with almost no instruction; documents which revealed their understanding of how associative principles may influence behaviour with far greater diversity than any single academic could hope to achieve. In this poster I will report on the quantitative analysis of the students’ evaluations of the teaching method, display some of their work as hypertext, and show a video taken at their laboratory presentations. I hope that these will reveal the value and enjoyment which can be derived from the use of “homespun hypertext” in any educational context.

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