This semester I’m teaching a new undergraduate course of my own design, a class I’m calling “learning in out-of-school contexts.” The OFFICIAL course title is General Educational Psychology, and it’s designed as a survey of the big ideas of Educational Psychology, targeting people who are not necessarily planning on becoming teachers. So far it’s been a challenging and interesting course, both to design and to teach–one of the big fat thorny issues of my field is figuring out ways to convince non-educational psychologists that what we do does, can, and should matter to them.
I’ve pasted my course syllabus below (minus a few details, omitted only for privacy’s sake); you can download the full syllabus, as a Word document, here. I hope over the next several weeks to write about my experiences with this class, and to offer up my lessons and activities for other people who might find them useful. I’ve found that there’s a depressing dearth of online resources for people teaching this sort of class, and I plan to work on remedying this problem.
EDUC-P250: General Educational Psychology
Spring 2013 ~ T/Th 11:15-12:30
ED 1006 (Wright Building)
Instructor: Jenna McWilliams (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Office: Wright 4009J
Office hours: Thursdays, 12:30-2:00, and by appointment
Required resource: Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., Boyd, D., Cody, R., Herr-Stephenson, R., et al. (2010). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge: MIT.
Course Overview: how, where, and why do people learn?
The field of educational psychology focuses on theories of how people learn, what motivates them to learn, and how what they learn can be applied to new situations. This class will use the principles of educational psychology to consider how learning happens in a range of learning environments. In particular, we will focus on learning in the following contexts:
- The college experience: What (else) is college for? In addition to coursework, the college experience is filled with new academic, social, and professional opportunities. We will consider how learning happens throughout the college experience and how these experiences prepare students for life after college.
- Learning online: Is it true if I learned it on the internet? The emergence of social networking technologies has led educational psychologists to think differently about how learning happens and why. We will consider the kinds of learning that are made possible through participation in online communities, exploring what motivates people to join these communities in the first place and why they stick around.
- Video games as social learning environments: What can video games teach us about learning & literacy? Recent research suggests that video games can be powerful tools for learning, and that people who play video games have access to special learning opportunities that are not available to non-gamers. We will consider why people are motivated to play video games, what they can learn from gaming, and what we can learn from them.
- Semi-formal learning environments and the “hidden curriculum”: How do museums, libraries, and similar learning environments support learning and development of cultural competencies? Educational psychologists are interested in gaps between learners’ access to culturally valued ways of thinking and behaving. One way of bridging this gap is through the development of semiformal learning environments such as museums, art galleries, and libraries.
The class will be divided into three sections, each linked to a major theme in educational psychology:
- Theories of knowing, learning, and development (weeks 1-4)
- Metacognition, critical thinking, and creativity (weeks 5-9)
- Motivational theories (weeks 10-15)
Course structure and assignments
This course is designed to expose you to some of the big ideas of educational psychology and to help you to apply these ideas to learning in a broad range of learning contexts. To really understand why it’s useful to look at learning in these contexts, it’s important to experience the learning that is possible in the contexts we’ll be discussing. Therefore, this course will include a combination of out-of-class reading assignments, lectures, and immersive learning experiences.
- Reading assignments. Readings from the required text will be supplemented by a combination of articles available online and through OnCourse, as well as a selection of readings from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Please note that Wikipedia should not be considered a definitive resource on any course topic; our goal is to consider Wikipedia as one example of how knowledge is constructed and negotiated collaboratively. As I note elsewhere in this syllabus, you will need to bring a copy of all assigned readings to class on the date they are listed; this means that you will be expected to either print copies of articles available online or bring a laptop or other reading device to class in order to access those materials.
- Lectures. In-class lectures will be used to supplement assigned readings; they will detail and elaborate on key ideas and are therefore an important resource for you. You will be responsible for all material covered in lectures. If you miss class, be sure to ask for a classmate’s lecture notes. I will make as many lecture materials available in Oncourse as possible.
- Immersive learning experiences. Throughout the semester, we will spend class sessions exploring variety of video games, online resources, and other learning tools. We will also take at least one class field trip, to the Wonderlab—a children’s science museum located in downtown Bloomington. This field trip will occur on Feb. 7; please be prepared to pay an admission fee of $5. If you cannot afford this fee, please let me know. If you do not have a car or other transportation, I will help make carpool arrangements.
Your grade in this course will be determined by the following:
Major assignments (choose 3 out of 4): 45%
- HOMAGO personal profile [15%]
- Semiformal learning environment profile [15%]
- Creative production + creativity fair + reflection [15%]
- Game play + game fair + reflection [15%]
Reflection papers (choose 3 out of 4): 15%
- Wikipedia edit + reflection [5%]
- Wonderlab reflection [5%]
- Fan group reflection [5%]
- Personal motivation profile [5%]
Midterm and final exams: 20%
Small group activities and additional assignments: 10%
Assignments are described in greater detail below.
Major Assignments (choose 3)
Each of the assignments described below is worth 15% of your grade in the course. Because the assignments emphasize a range of skills and areas of interests, you may opt out of one of the assignments in this category. In the first few weeks of the semester, you will notify me which assignments you plan to complete; this will serve as our contract for the semester.
A note on multimodality: I want you to think broadly about how to conceptualize and present your ideas about learning, metacognition, and motivation. In general, each of these assignments is designed to allow you to use multimodal (visual, audio) materials in addition to text to communicate your ideas. While multimodality is not required and should not be used as a replacement for substance, I encourage you to be creative in your approach to these assignments.
HOMAGO personal profile (due 2/7)
The required text for this course focuses on three genres of participation: Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out (or HOMAGO for short). In this assignment, you will develop a personal profile in which you map these genres of participation across your life and learning experiences. Since you are a college student, your learning ecology includes but should not be limited to the classes you take here at IU; it should also include other communities in which you participate and learn, and other activities that support your learning and moral, ethical, and social development. For this profile, consider:
- Where do you engage in each genre of participation (and why)?
- To which affinity groups do you belong, and what sort of participant (legitimate peripheral, full, somewhere in between) are you in these groups?
- What role do social learning, the ZPD, and scaffolding play in your life / learning ecology?
Semiformal learning environment profile (due 2/28)
On Feb. 7, we will take a class field trip to the Wonderlab, a local children’s science museum. The goal of this visit is to experience firsthand how some of the big ideas of class apply to one semiformal learning environment. In particular, we will focus on the norms, values, beliefs, and skills that are emphasized through the Wonderlab experience and on how these relate to the concept of the hidden curriculum.
For this assignment, you will choose another, different semiformal learning environment to profile. It can be a museum, art gallery, library, or similar learning context. You will be expected to visit this learning environment and draft a thorough profile of this context. You will then use this profile to analyze how learning is supported here, what norms, values, beliefs, and skills it emphasizes, and how it reinforces or challenges the hidden curriculum.
Creative production + creativity fair + reflection (creative work due in class on 3/21; reflection due 3/28)
Creativity is an important aspect of both educational psychology and of researchers considering what motivates people to make things. For this assignment, you will use a piece of technology to generate a creative product, which you will present in an in-class “creativity fair.” You will then write a short reflection that draws connections between course concepts and the process of creating your product. Sample creative products include a YouTube video, a fan fiction piece or fan video, a website, or a musical mashup or remix. Whatever creative product you choose, you must have access to the tools necessary to complete the product and you must be able to bring both the necessary tools and the final product to class in order to present and discuss your work.
You will submit for a grade:
- The creative product;
- A reflective production log which documents the number of hours you spent completing the project (minimum 5 hours) and your experience of creating the product;
- A short (1-2 page) reflection that draws connections between course concepts and the process of creating the work.
Games, motivation, metacognition and learning project (game fair 4/18; reflection due 4/25)
Research suggests that we can learn a lot about what motivates people to learn and about how knowledge we gain in one context transfers (or doesn’t) to another context. For this assignment, you will spend time playing a game of your choice and use this experience to make an argument about motivation and metacognition. You will present your game in an in-class “game fair” and will submit for a grade:
- A brief overview of the game and rationale for choosing this game;
- A gameplay log which records the amount of time you spent playing the game (minimum 5 hours) and documents your experience of playing the game; and
- A short (1-2 page) reflection that draws connections between course concepts and the game you’ve chosen.
Reflection papers (choose 3).
You will submit three short reflection papers over the course of the semester; these reflections are designed to help you apply the big ideas of the course to specific learning experiences and opportunities. You may opt out of one of the reflection assignments described below.
Reflection #1: Wikipedia edit + reflection. Wikipedia is one context in which people engage in meaning-making collaboratively. After we have spent a day working with Wikipedia and learning how to edit it, students will be required to tour Wikipedia and edit at least two pages. The reflection has them apply the notions of zpd and scaffolding in particular as they think about their experience.
Reflection #2: Wonderlab reflection. We will be visiting the Wonderlab as a class. All students will be required to submit a reflective piece in which they consider how the wonderlab supports social, moral, and ethical development OR how it supports development of metacognitive skills.
Reflection #3: Fan group reflection. The final section of this course focuses on motivation: What inspires people to learn and grow. In one class period, we will have a guest speaker: Erin Policinski, a superfan of Notre Dame football, who will discuss her experience as part of one particular fan group. For this assignment, you may choose to write a reflection on her talk, or you may profile another fan group of your choosing.
Reflection #4: Personal motivational profile. In the final weeks of the semester, we will focus on theories of motivation. For this reflection, you will draft a personal motivational profile in which you apply these theories to your own experience. When and why are you intrinsically motivated? Which motivational theory best explains you, and why? How does knowing about your own motivators help you to strategies about how best to motivate yourself?
Midterm and Final exams
The midterm will include material covered in the first half of the semester. The final exam will be due during Finals week and will be cumulative.
Additional assignments and small group activities (2+)
Small-group activities will be completed largely in class, but they may require some out-of-class work as well. I will also administer in-class reading quizzes and require additional assignments where useful or necessary. All quizzes and additional assignments will contribute to your grade in this category.
This class operates on the assumption that learning works best when it is social, collaborative, and focused on active construction of knowledge. Because of this, your participation is essential for your own successful learning, for the successful learning of your peers, and for the successful operation of the class community.
Your participation grade will be determined based on your success in the following categories:
- Preparing. Coming to class prepared means completing assigned readings and assignments on time and bringing required materials to class. Since we will be discussing and analyzing required readings, if you don’t have the text with you then you aren’t prepared for class, even if you have read the assignment. This applies to the hard-copy reading assignments as well as readings available online through OnCourse and elsewhere.
- Engaging. Ask questions about required readings. Ask questions during lectures. Be curious and offer your interpretations of course materials. Challenge yourself and your classmates to think critically about course topics. Try new things, even if they seem challenging or weird.
- Supporting. Learning works best in environments of mutual support. The minimum requirement for this class is that you share your perspective and challenge the perspectives of your classmates in a productive, courteous, and respectful manner. (For more on this, see the class policy on “diversity.”) In addition, you will be expected to engage in several small-group activities for this class, and you will be expected to support your group in completing assigned activities. This means taking on your share of the work and completing it in a timely and productive manner.
Attendance: If you want to do well in this course (earn a good grade, master core concepts), you need to show up to class. Missing class means missing in-class assignments that cannot be made up; it also means missing discussions, lectures, and other activities designed to help you understand and apply core concepts.
Show up to class. Show up to class. Show up to class. Show up prepared. Show up having completed assigned readings. Show up having completed written assignments. Do these things and you will do well in this course.
The only absences that will count as ‘excused’ in this class are: Absences to participate in university-sanctioned events and hospitalization due to severe illness. Absences for any other reason, no matter how justified, will count as ‘unexcused’—this includes illness that does not require a hospital stay (even illness that requires a visit to the doctor) and family or personal emergencies.
You may accumulate up to 4 unexcused absences without penalty to your grade. Upon the 5th absence, I will begin lowering your grade. At 9 absences, you risk failure of the course.
Additionally, missing class for any reason (excused or unexcused) does not excuse you from completing class assignments—all assignments are due on the date listed, with no exceptions. Please note that missing classes, for any reason (excused or unexcused), may result in the loss of points for in-class assignments or quizzes, which cannot be made up.
Additional information & policies
Paperless classroom policy: We live in a world of dwindling resources. This class will be partially paperless: I will limit the printed materials I provide you for this course. All relevant course materials will be made available in electronic format through OnCourse, eReserve, or similar sites.
Please note that it is your responsibility to bring copies of the assigned readings and some supplemental materials to class. If you choose not to print course readings and materials, you may bring electronic copies on a laptop or eReader (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.).
Electronic technologies: As noted above, you may choose to bring a laptop, eReader, or similar learning tool to class. During class time, these tools should be used for class purposes only; use of these technologies for non-class purposes may result in a loss of participation points.
Academic Integrity: Typically, when instructors talk about “academic integrity,” they focus primarily on plagiarism. In fact, the Indiana University Code of Student Conduct lists plagiarism as one of at least 6 distinct forms of academic misconduct. These are: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, interference, violation of course rules, and facilitating academic dishonesty. Misconduct in any of these areas is grounds for discipline and may result in failure of the course. Significant violations of the Code can result in expulsion from the University.
You can view the full description of each category, along with a detailed description of what counts as academic misconduct, at http://www.iu.edu/~code/code/responsibilities/academic/index.shtml.
Diversity: The Indiana University Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct guarantees all students’ right to protection from discrimination and harassment:
Students have the right to study, work, and interact in an environment that is free from discrimination in violation of law or university policy by any member of the university community. Students at Indiana University are expected to respect the rights and dignity of other students, faculty, and staff.
The university will not exclude any person from participation in its programs or activities on the basis of arbitrary considerations of such characteristics as age, color, disability, ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.
This course will be one of many opportunities for you to practice respect for diversity. Degrading language, bullying, harassment, or any other form of discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated.
Religious Observances: Indiana University respects the right of all students to observe their religious holidays and will make reasonable accommodation, upon request, for such observances. To view Indiana University’s policies and procedures regarding making accommodations for religious observances, visit https://www.indiana.edu/~vpfaa/academicguide/index.php/Policy_H-10.
Reasonable Accommodation for Disabilities: If you require assistance or academic accommodations for a disability, please contact me after class, during my office hours, or by individual appointment. You must have established your eligibility for disability support services through the Office of Disability Services for Students (http://studentaffairs.iub.edu/dss/) in Franklin Hall 006, 812-855-7578.
Syllabus Changes: To ensure that this class meets the needs of both you and me, I reserve the right to amend or change the course syllabus at any time during the semester. In the event that any changes are made to the syllabus, I will notify you in advance.
Extra Credit: If a worthwhile opportunity for extra credit arises, it will be offered to the entire class. Extra credit will not be offered on an individual basis.