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Sex, drugs, rhythms & blues: teaching principles of biological psychology Tom V. Smulders School of Psychology & Institute of Neuroscience Newcastle University.

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Presentation on theme: "Sex, drugs, rhythms & blues: teaching principles of biological psychology Tom V. Smulders School of Psychology & Institute of Neuroscience Newcastle University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sex, drugs, rhythms & blues: teaching principles of biological psychology Tom V. Smulders School of Psychology & Institute of Neuroscience Newcastle University

2 Psychology at Newcastle  Entrance criteria: AAB or ABB if one science A-level  Annual intake: ~100 Single Honours Psychology students 33% has biology A-level (most recent intake)  120 credits per academic year, typically in 10-credit modules (=2 contact hours per week)

3 Biological Psychology module  Lectures only; 10 Credits  Approximately 165 students  Stage 2, Semester 2  Stage 1 includes modules that address basics of neurobiology  Main text book: Carlson’s Foundations of Physiological Psychology

4 Aim of Bio. Psych. module  To get students to understand and be able to apply some basic principles of biopsychology: Action of neurotransmitters at the synapse Action of hormones at receptors Basics of pharmacokinetics and drug effects All psychology has a physiological basis

5 Covers selected topics only  Sex  Sexual differentiation  Underlying causes of sex differences  Drugs  Reward and addiction  Commonly used psycho-active drugs  Rhythms  Function and mechanisms of sleep  Circadian and circannual rhythms  Blues  Stress  Depression

6 “Information transfer”  Classic large-class lectures using PowerPoint slide presentations  Supported by the BlackBoard VLE: Lecture slides Handouts (outlines, figures, new terminology) Previous exams (with solutions) Study questions

7 Aligned practice (Biggs 1999) “Assess what you want them to study”  Examination (100% of assesment): 50% MCQ (50 questions) 50% Short-answer questions (3):  Integrative across lectures  Application of principles Answer all questions!

8 Example of a short-answer question You work a constant nightshift. What are the things you could do to minimize the effects on your system? Explain your reasoning.

9 Example of a short-answer question Jenny is a very skinny girl, while her friend April is more than slightly overweight. On a night out on the town, they each smoke two joints (marijuana). Whereas April gets only a slight buzz, Jenny gets very stoned. a) What could account for this difference in effect? b) 3 weeks later, the friends are required to take a drugs test for a job they are applying for. Which of the two is most likely to be found out and why?

10 Example of a short-answer question If a doctor gives a patient a sugar pill instead of a pain killer, the pain is nevertheless likely to subside at least partially. How does this work? Describe the evidence to support this.

11 Disadvantages of short-answer questions  Does not test the traditional criterion of “reading beyond the lecture material”  Does not test the students on extensive knowledge of key studies

12 Advantages of short-answer questions  Students have to get to the point (no waffling)  Easy to mark consistently across many students  Quick to mark (1-2min per question)  Very good at separating out the students

13 Distribution of marks

14 Preparation for assessment  Previous years’ short-answer questions are available on VLE, including model answers and marking criteria.  Study questions are available on the VLE, with immediate feedback (mix of MCQ and short-answer)  2 revision sessions in class (Q&A)

15 Effectiveness of Study Questions Year: F(1,233)=45.5, p< Ability: F(1,233)=165.3, p< StudyQ: F(1,233)=9.2, p=0.003

16 Effectiveness of Study Questions Year: F(1,233)=45.5, p< Ability: F(1,233)=165.3, p< StudyQ: F(1,233)=9.2, p=0.003

17 Effectiveness of Study Questions Year: F(1,233)=45.5, p< Ability: F(1,233)=165.3, p< StudyQ: F(1,233)=9.2, p=0.003

18 Conclusion  I attempt to instil understanding of principles, rather than just knowledge of facts  The assessment and study aids are geared towards this goal  Have I succeeded? Who knows…


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