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Bottlenecks, Thresholds, and Transformers: New Ways to Look at Old Content Jane S. Halonen University of West Florida.

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Presentation on theme: "Bottlenecks, Thresholds, and Transformers: New Ways to Look at Old Content Jane S. Halonen University of West Florida."— Presentation transcript:

1 Bottlenecks, Thresholds, and Transformers: New Ways to Look at Old Content Jane S. Halonen University of West Florida

2 Wellsprings of this Approach Ray Land, originator of “threshold concepts” Ray Land, originator of “threshold concepts” Ray Land

3 Wellsprings of this Approach Ray Land, originator of “threshold concepts” Ray Land, originator of “threshold concepts” Rob McEntarffer, proposer of single index assessment items at last year’s BEST PRACTICE CONFERENCE Rob McEntarffer, proposer of single index assessment items at last year’s BEST PRACTICE CONFERENCE Rob McEntarffer

4 Wellsprings of this Approach Ray Land, originator of “threshold concepts” Ray Land, originator of “threshold concepts” Rob McEntarffer, proposer of single index assessment items at last year’s BEST PRACTICE CONFERENCE Rob McEntarffer, proposer of single index assessment items at last year’s BEST PRACTICE CONFERENCE J. William Hepler, my introductory teacher at Butler University (Go, Bulldogs!) J. William Hepler, my introductory teacher at Butler University (Go, Bulldogs!) A reasonable facsimile

5 Proceed from these assumptions.. Psychology is not just built from concepts; it has now run amok. Psychology is not just built from concepts; it has now run amok. Not all psychology concepts are Not all psychology concepts are Easy to learn Easy to learn Easy to teach Easy to teach Equally valuable Equally valuable We must make judicious selections. We must make judicious selections.

6 What is a bottleneck concept? Concepts that produce a reliable struggle to understand. [Sometimes they are also threshold concepts.]

7 Bottleneck Exemplar What student in his or her right mind would understand functionalism vs. structuralism on first exposure ?

8 What is a threshold concept? Threshold concepts have extra impact in imparting the nature of the DISCIPLINE. Threshold concepts have extra impact in imparting the nature of the DISCIPLINE. Students stand on one side; teachers, through skilled teaching, stand on the other and pull students across to the enlightened side. Students stand on one side; teachers, through skilled teaching, stand on the other and pull students across to the enlightened side.

9 Threshold Exemplar “the power of controlled comparison” Students don’t easily get correlational vs. experimental design Students don’t easily get correlational vs. experimental design Consequently, isolated terms are difficult to understand and apply Consequently, isolated terms are difficult to understand and apply

10 What’s wrong with this picture?

11 What is a transformative concept? A concept that fundamentally changes who you are and how you think. The impact is PERSONAL. A concept that fundamentally changes who you are and how you think. The impact is PERSONAL. Some bottleneck and threshold concepts can become transformers. Some bottleneck and threshold concepts can become transformers.

12 Transformers Involve an “a ha” moment when your new understanding had profound effects on you Involve an “a ha” moment when your new understanding had profound effects on you May or may not be in the classroom May or may not be in the classroom May or may not have been instrumental in declaring a major May or may not have been instrumental in declaring a major

13 Transformer Exemplar Defense Mechanisms Everybody does it Everybody does it It distorts the truth It distorts the truth It makes your anxiety go away It makes your anxiety go away People can’t realize they are doing it or it doesn’t work People can’t realize they are doing it or it doesn’t work …I do it, too! …I do it, too!

14 What are the concepts in introductory psychology with the highest impact?

15 Let the data sharing begin! Take a moment and see if you can identify a psychology concept that was “high impact” for you when you were starting out and explain it to your neighbor. Take a moment and see if you can identify a psychology concept that was “high impact” for you when you were starting out and explain it to your neighbor. Propose the category into which you think it fits best: Propose the category into which you think it fits best: Bottleneck Bottleneck Threshold Threshold Transformer Transformer

16 Pilot Study I asked my honors students to identify the most transformative concepts Taint of pandering Taint of pandering Confusion between content area and concept Confusion between content area and concept

17 2 nd Attempt: Dr. Awesome’s Intro Class Inquired about hard CONTENT/chapter area followed by CONCEPT Inquired about hard CONTENT/chapter area followed by CONCEPT Inquired about easy CONTENT/chapter area followed by CONCEPT Inquired about easy CONTENT/chapter area followed by CONCEPT Followed up by asking about Transformative CONCEPT Followed up by asking about Transformative CONCEPT Executed through extra credit opportunity at the end of exam while everything is FRESH Executed through extra credit opportunity at the end of exam while everything is FRESH Dr. Tom Westcott

18 What content is hard? “Stuff on the brain” = 23 % “Stuff on the brain” = 23 % Emotions = 10% Emotions = 10% Cognition = 7% Cognition = 7% Abnormal = 5% Abnormal = 5% Language = 4% Language = 4%

19 Memorable comments “Remembering the names of the ‘state the obvious’ theorists” “Remembering the names of the ‘state the obvious’ theorists” “Too many theories” “Too many theories” “The lecture” “The lecture” “Theories I don’t agree with” “Theories I don’t agree with” “I’m very thickheaded and that was too much information to learn” “I’m very thickheaded and that was too much information to learn”

20 Hardest Concept Hormone release and function Hormone release and function Sleep phases Sleep phases Neurotransmitters Neurotransmitters Self-awareness Self-awareness Schachter Schachter Decay theory Decay theory Evolutionary theory Evolutionary theory Arousal Arousal Erickson’s theory Erickson’s theory Negative reinforcement Negative reinforcement Piaget’s theories (3) Peripheral nervous system Language acquisition Personality disorders (2) IQ Yerkes Dodson Emotional intelligence Phoneme Creativity Darwin

21 Hardest Concept US = UR, CS = CR US = UR, CS = CR “Endrocrent” system “Endrocrent” system Learning theories Learning theories Latent and manifest content Latent and manifest content Probability Probability Negative/positive correlation Negative/positive correlation Dream cycles Dream cycles Natural and artificial concepts Natural and artificial concepts Push pull theory Push pull theory Neurological reaction stimulus Neurological reaction stimulus Experimental theories Experimental theories And my personal favorite Internal “focus” on control

22 What about transformation? Of 216 responses Of 216 responses 64 (30%) said none occurred 64 (30%) said none occurred 24 (11%) discussed an idea too vaguely to count 24 (11%) discussed an idea too vaguely to count 128 (59%) offered at least one specific concept 128 (59%) offered at least one specific concept 136 concepts were identified in total 136 concepts were identified in total

23 Why no transformation? “I’ve had the class before.” “I’ve had the class before.” “Interesting stuff but just another gen ed class.” “Interesting stuff but just another gen ed class.” “Learned a lot but not life changing.” “Learned a lot but not life changing.” “Not really transformation, but my thought processes on human behavior have been altered.” “Not really transformation, but my thought processes on human behavior have been altered.” “Psych is interesting but all just based on common sense.” “Psych is interesting but all just based on common sense.” “..but I’m keeping the book” “..but I’m keeping the book”

24 Attitude and Self-Control (25) Attitude is key to 90% of situations Attitude is key to 90% of situations You can choose to be mad You can choose to be mad I’m trying to be more patient and think things through I’m trying to be more patient and think things through After a bad shot, I don’t dwell on it. I just move on. After a bad shot, I don’t dwell on it. I just move on. There isn’t any such thing as a bad day There isn’t any such thing as a bad day You decide to let things bother you You decide to let things bother you

25 Memory & Study Strategies (29) How to remember 100 things How to remember 100 things How to remember multiple things clearly How to remember multiple things clearly Best to study in 20 minute blocks for optimal retention Best to study in 20 minute blocks for optimal retention “Awesome” “Awesome”

26 Life Skills (13) Ask open ended questions when people are upset Ask open ended questions when people are upset How to talk to others How to talk to others How to look at people and the world How to look at people and the world Reading people Reading people I am more observant I am more observant I better understand people. In fact, I changed my major because of this course. I better understand people. In fact, I changed my major because of this course.

27 Sleep & Dreaming (11) 1/3 of our lives sleeping! 1/3 of our lives sleeping! I focus more on dreams than before I focus more on dreams than before Titling your dreams will help you remember them Titling your dreams will help you remember them

28 Motivation & Emotion (11) Different reasons behind peoples’ actions Different reasons behind peoples’ actions How a person deals with stress and its effects on the body How a person deals with stress and its effects on the body Stress because I’m a very busy, stressful person Stress because I’m a very busy, stressful person

29 Sensation & Perception (11) Made me want to go to medical school to study more about the human body Made me want to go to medical school to study more about the human body Everything we see around us is actually a figment of imagination Everything we see around us is actually a figment of imagination How the brain works and can be tricked How the brain works and can be tricked I had no idea images were upside down and our brain fixes them to be upright I had no idea images were upside down and our brain fixes them to be upright

30 Pathology (9) Mental disorders opened my eyes to suffering and we don’t take the time to care Mental disorders opened my eyes to suffering and we don’t take the time to care Throughout the course I was getting free counseling to deal with my wife and kids just be attending the class Throughout the course I was getting free counseling to deal with my wife and kids just be attending the class I have cancer. Anxiety and depression made me realize a lot of people suffer I have cancer. Anxiety and depression made me realize a lot of people suffer Better able to understand my friend’s schizophrenia Better able to understand my friend’s schizophrenia

31 Deception (6) I can tell if someone is being deceitful or not I can tell if someone is being deceitful or not Learning how to predict deception in others Learning how to predict deception in others

32 Learning (5) You can learn new things or ideas as you get older in life You can learn new things or ideas as you get older in life The marshmallow effect The marshmallow effect The idea that mental “fortacies” can contribute to learning barriers The idea that mental “fortacies” can contribute to learning barriers I am not sure what it is called but the story where the rat wants food and he has the shocker in front of him and he turns around multiple times. I can relate this to peoples’ relationships around me. I am not sure what it is called but the story where the rat wants food and he has the shocker in front of him and he turns around multiple times. I can relate this to peoples’ relationships around me.

33 Others Social (5): territorial space, persuasion, love and distance Social (5): territorial space, persuasion, love and distance Personality (4) Personality (4) Child behavior (3) Child behavior (3) Creativity (1) Creativity (1) Research (1): how correlations work and what it really means to have a relationship between two things Research (1): how correlations work and what it really means to have a relationship between two things

34 What’s Wrong with This Picture? Context didn’t produce solid reflection. Context didn’t produce solid reflection. “Concepts” is an expert, not a novice, organizer. “Concepts” is an expert, not a novice, organizer. Is it expecting to much for an introductory psychology course to be transformative? Is it expecting to much for an introductory psychology course to be transformative? Hit rate for transformation is likely to improve with declaration of major. Hit rate for transformation is likely to improve with declaration of major. Can this generation own transformation or is it just not “cool?” Can this generation own transformation or is it just not “cool?”

35 Challenge: Create the High Impact Roster What is your best “bottleneck?” What is your best “bottleneck?” Operational definition: A concept that is really difficult to teach/understand. Operational definition: A concept that is really difficult to teach/understand. What is your best “threshold?” What is your best “threshold?” Operational definition: A concept that most effectively introduces the nature of psychology. Operational definition: A concept that most effectively introduces the nature of psychology. What is your best “transformer?” What is your best “transformer?” A concept that produces the strongest personal impact. A concept that produces the strongest personal impact.

36 Bottleneck Roster Action potential Action potential Heritability Heritability Split brain Split brain Culture Culture Top-down bottom-up Top-down bottom-up Natural selection/evolution Natural selection/evolution Critical periods Classical conditioning Negative reinforcement Color dynamics Emotion

37 Threshold Roster Correlation vs. causation Correlation vs. causation Neurotransmitter influence Neurotransmitter influence Research methods as a whole Research methods as a whole Personality theory Personality theory Not all psychologists are clinicians Not all psychologists are clinicians Basic vs. applied research Basic vs. applied research Multicausality Multicausality

38 Transformer Roster Alternative personality theory (different set of eyes) Alternative personality theory (different set of eyes) Unreliability of personality tests Unreliability of personality tests Brain change Brain change Psychology = biology Psychology = biology Compassion and reduced stigma Compassion and reduced stigma Bystander effect Attraction/liking Power of the situation Disorders Cognitive dissonance Groupthink/critical thinking Classical conditioning

39 What does it all mean? What would happen if we organize what we do to maximize high impact learning in introductory psychology? What would happen if we organize what we do to maximize high impact learning in introductory psychology? What teaching strategies would follow those decisions? What teaching strategies would follow those decisions? What assessment ideas would work? What assessment ideas would work?

40 What is your take-away? Does this framework influence how you think about Content scope? Content scope? Content depth? Content depth? Students? Students?

41 Questions/Comments Thanks for having me!

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