18 weeks is a looonnng time to spend in a "bad marriage," i.e. a mismatch between an instructor and student. Read on, and see if we're the right match for 18 weeks of bliss ;-) instead!
Following are some FAQs . They refer specifically to my Psyc 1 General Psychology course, but my other courses follow a similar format. (One major difference: In Introduction to Biological Psychology, Psyc1B, students are allowed to prepare for tests by using the Review Sheet and constructing a note card (4x6 inches, both sides)for use during testing.)
What is covered?
Most people have the mistaken impression that psychology is about analyzing people, i.e. how people think, their motivations, their emotions, and disorders such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. The study of psychology is much broader than this. Topics include scientific research methods, the influence of genes and experience on personality, biological basis of behavior (neurons, neurotransmitters), the senses, principles of learning and memory, food and sex motivation, psychological disorders, therapy, the effects of society and culture on the individual. In addition to human, other animals are studied as well.
What isn't covered?
1) Disorders and Therapy comprise less than 15% of my course. If these topics are your primary interest, I would recommend that you enroll in a section taught by another instructor (most are psychotherapists, while I am not) or enrolling in my section, but plan on taking Abnormal Psychology (Psyc 10) the next semester.
2) Also, Gen Psyc does not teach specific skills, such as relationship skills, stress reduction, etc. I highly recommend courses such as Human Relations (Psyc 26), Psychology of Stress (Psyc 9), Psychology of Success (Psyc 16), Shyness (Psyc 14) , Assertiveness (Psyc 15), etc. which focus on practical skills, rather than the broad field of psychology.
I heard there's often a dog in the classroom. What's that about?
My background is in comparative and biological psychology, which is a cross-species approach, i.e. inclusion of all species, not just humans. I might use a dog to demonstrate measurements of intelligence, sensory systems, nervous system function, classical and operant learning, genetic influence on personality, psychological disorders or other topics. Similar demonstrations could be done with laboratory rats, but dogs are more convenient, and are more humane for me to maintain. Student feedback indicates that most students find the dogs a very positive classroom experience. The biggest downside is that a dog can be distracting, i.e. much more interesting than the instructor. Note: If you are afraid of dogs, your fear can be reduced by learning more about dog behavior, and by meeting dogs in a controlled classroom environment. If you are highly allergic to dogs, I recommend enrolling in a non-dog section with another instructor. Even when there isn't a dog in the classroom, there will probably be dog hair on me! ; )
Is the class hard?
Yes. Psyc 1 is not the easy course.
Psyc 1 is a fully transferable course to the Univ of Calif, and Cal State Univ system. It is a parallel course, and taught as if you were taking Gen Psyc at a 4-year institution. If you do well in the course, you will do well at a university, i.e. the course is not a "dumbed-down" version of Gen Psyc simply because it is taught at a community college.
Material from both the lectures and textbook are included in the tests, with lecture material weighed heavily. The tests are multiple choice questions, with a range of difficulty. The easiest questions require only rote memorization of the key terms. More difficult questions require a thorough understanding of the concepts, and an ability to apply them.
Grades are usually assigned on the following criteria of 90% and above = A, 80%=B, 70%=C, 50%=D, below 50%=F. The grade distributions Psyc 1 Fall 2001/Spring 2002 were A=19%, B=38%, C=22%, D=12%, F=9%. Grade distributions for Summer 2002 were A=37%, B=40%, C=12%, D=7%, F=4%. (One reason summer grades tend to be higher is because students can maintain a high motivation during a short intensive course, i.e. 90 mins/day for 6 weeks.) Note: D and F grades are most often the result of a student who stops attending class, but fails to file for a formal Withdrawal.
Is extra credit offered?
Yes and No. Extra credit options are available to move a grade up to a B. If you attend regularly and do extra credit, you are likely to earn a C or better.
Extra credit is not counted toward an A. An A means you have an excellent knowledge of the course material and good academic skills (e.g. test-taking, writing).
Is there homework?
Yes: reading the textbook, studying your lecture notes, and writing a paper. A quiz is given after 2-3 chapters are completed. There are 6-7 quizzes total. There is a term paper (approximately 5-8 pages long), and a comprehensive Final Exam. Students are required to read the chapter before coming to lecture. Although there are no unannounced ("pop") quizzes, you might be confused about lecture topics if you have no familiarity with the textbook material.
Does attendance count toward a grade?
Yes. Attendance and participation usually comprise about 10% of the course grade. Students learn from lecture and discussion, as well as from their readings. Since a student will not be tested on all lecture/discussion content, giving points for attendance is one way to credit classroom learning.
If it is logistically or psychologically difficult for you to regularly attend class, perhaps enrolling in a class that meets only once a week (e.g. evening or Sat class) or a distance-learning class (on-line, or telecourse) is a better option. Absences due to circumstances beyond the student's control do not affect the attendance score.
What type of student might do best in your class?
The perfect match is a motivated student who likes a scientific approach, who likes intellectual stimulation (this is not the "feelings" section). An added benefit, it's a great class if you want to learn more about dogs. Note: We can compromise on the "perfect match." Since I'm not the perfect instructor, you don't have to be the perfect student!