T. Grier-Reed, R. Chahla

University of Minnesota (UNITED STATES)
Finding ways to pique student interest, promote engagement, and create opportunities for pupils to interface with course concepts in ways that facilitate higher-order thinking can be challenging. To meet these challenges I developed the Survey Research Project. The Survey Research Project engages students in collaborative learning and uses technology to teach students about the conduct of research in the field of psychology. The project occurs over the course 7 weeks, and the first step involves students developing a research question and hypothesis and assigning roles. Students are put into groups of 5-6, and each group effectively becomes a research team. Research questions are based on virtually anything that piques student interest, and each team member plays a specific role. For example, the Project Manager ensures that the group effectively communicates and collaborates, that each aspect of the project moves forward only after approval from the instructor, and that the project proceeds according to the timeline. The Data Collector drafts the initial versions of the informed consent form and survey questions and coordinates data collection. The project uses electronic surveys for data collection, and the Programmer creates the online version of the survey and provides access to all team members and instructional staff. The Analyst analyzes the survey data using basic statistical concepts related central tendency and deviation and creates graphics for the final report. The Report Writer summarizes the research findings in a scientific report that includes brief Introduction and Discussion sections along with Methods and Results sections that describe the research sample, procedures, operational definitions, and results. Finally, the Editor (an official role only in groups of 6) provides peer review for the scientific report and responds to instructor feedback for revising the informed consent form and initial drafts of the survey.

In addition to using technology to deliver the survey, the project uses technology to facilitate discussion and provide a virtual meeting space for each research team, where every team has a virtual “Workroom” that only the instructional staff and team members can access. Here students brainstorm about research questions, survey questions, and potential hypotheses. The workroom also provides a central means for the instructor to communicate and provide feedback to teams. For example, all assignments are turned in to the instructor via the workroom and feedback from the instructor is also provided via the workroom so everyone has access to the same information. In addition, the workroom also provides a useful way of cataloguing and observing the group process, where all communications are time stamped and can only be deleted by the instructor; so it is easy to monitor how responsive group members are to each other and who responds in a timely manner. Finally, the virtual workroom provides a convenient way for students to “get together” outside of class in order to work on the project. Implementing this project has been enjoyable, rewarding, and a great way to teach psychological concepts related to research, statistics, and group dynamics. Since implementing the Survey Research Project I have noticed an increased level of energy and engagement in my psychology class and an improvement in my student evaluations.