Engaging Undergraduate Psychology Students with Research Methods and with the Process of Conducting Research
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A strong understanding of quantitative research methods is a pre-requisite to psychological literacy and evidence-based practice in psychology. Quantitative research methods are also an area of weakness for many psychology students. Furthermore, many students have relatively little interest in reading and conducting research, hold negative attitudes toward research methods, struggle to see the relevance or utility of methods and statistics courses, and experience high levels of statistics anxiety. Consequently, efforts have been undertaken to reform traditional research methods and statistics pedagogy, with the objective of making these subjects more applied, relevant and engaging for students. Many of these reforms are based on active learning principles, and the idea that, as much as is practicable, students should be ‘doing’ research, rather than merely reading about it, or listening to instructors talking about it. In an undergraduate psychology degree, ‘doing research’ can manifest in multiple activities, of which the current thesis focuses on three: (1) participating in authentic research; (2) working with authentic data; and (3) conducing an original research project. The first two papers herein focus on understanding and quantifying undergraduate psychology students’ perspectives on the educational value of participating in authentic research, which is a ‘rite of passage’ in most research active schools of psychology. The third describes the development and evaluation of an active learning exercise in which students participated in a class experiment, then analysed the data it generated. Papers 4-7 address issues arising from the supervision of final year dissertations projects, including the quality of student collected data, and the ethics of surveying online. Finally, paper 8 explores the difficulties faced by students (but not ‘experts’) when required to identify statistical tests and procedures appropriate to their research questions and hypotheses, while paper 9 describes the development of a mobile application specifically developed to support this process. Combined with the exegesis that precedes them, the nine papers in this thesis offer a range of insights into, and strategies that promote the engagement of undergraduate psychology students with research methods, and with the process of conducting research.
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