Research Methods in Psychology – using two courses to observe active learning vs. passive learning

Submitted by Erica Wager on

In Fall 2015, of my Introduction to Psychology classes, I had an honors class required to do a research project. As such, I decided to have my honors class students research, design, run and analyze their own projects (for examples of their projects, feel free to email me!).

At the end of the semester I gave a common final to all of my introductory courses. To explore if actively doing research methods helps learning, I pulled questions from the final having to do with research methods and analyzed performance on those particular questions compared to the test as a whole.

My honors class's general test average was 81.36% (SD=17.67) while the average on the research methods section was 88.36% (SD=8.60, p=.14). Conversely, my non-honors class’s general test average was 69.93% (SD=19.60) while the average on the research section was 71.79% (SD=16.36, p=.754). While this finding is only approaching a near significant trend, it is interesting to see that my honors students did perform slightly better on the research related questions than on the test as a whole while my non-honors students did not differ between their scores.

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Peter Turner Thu, 02/18/2016 - 7:30am

Well done, Erica! I am assuming from your results that you will permanently incorporate a research project into your classes. Just curious as to how your Honors Class compared with a prior Honors Class in the same areas . . .  that would provide more comparative information. That said, I really like the premise of your CATS! When students engage in research, they benefit accordingly!

Erica Wager Thu, 02/18/2016 - 11:08am

Hi Dr. Turner,

Yes I am going to incorperate this into my other introduction classes, I had that added in but the word limit made it so I had to cut down a bit. I have only had one honors class at this point so I can't compare it to any others! If I get another one at some point I'll certainly make that comparison, thank you for the suggestion! 

Olga Tsoudis Tue, 03/15/2016 - 10:50am

Erica, Great work! This shows us how "hands on" assignments make a difference for learning! Thanks for sharing. Olga

Erica Wager Thu, 04/14/2016 - 12:18pm

In reply to by Olga Tsoudis

Thank you, Olga! It seemed to have a huge impact on the students anecdotally as well, they appeared to love the research process and coming up with their own research designs. 

Teri Graham Tue, 04/19/2016 - 1:37pm


I am excited to see future data/feedback from your experience with this approach in your other courses.  I truly believe that we all learn (and retrain) so much more by being actively involved.  I have my students complete a learning styles anaylsis at the beginning of the semester and have found that 90% + are visual and kynthestic learners so this form of learning is so much more powerful for them.


Roselyn Turner Fri, 04/29/2016 - 9:26am

Erica, you have been such a wonderful OYO for our students!  Your commitment to student engagement and assessment has been above and beyond what we normally expect from "temporaries."  But, it is also the way to establish yourself in our community.  Keep up the commitment and I hope you will be back next year!  We need you.  Ro

Erica Wager Fri, 04/29/2016 - 3:18pm

It has been SO fun to help these students learn and learn right alongside them! I LOVE the CATS system too, it gives me lots of accountability for asking the critical questions and analyzing the results!