What’s the Point? Faculty Perceptions of Research Methods Courses

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Nearly every psychology major takes a course in research methods. While several studies have examined students’ perceptions of research methods courses (e.g., Rajecki, Appleby, Williams, Johnson, & Jeschke, 2005; Vittengl et al., 2004), few investigate faculty’s views on these courses. The current study explored faculty perceptions regarding course purpose, major course challenges for faculty and students, students’ achievement, skill development, and pedagogy. One hundred and one psychology faculty throughout the United States who had experience teaching research methods completed an online survey. Results indicate consensus about the purposes of the course, particularly the importance of teaching scientific thinking, and perceived student achievement of this goal. Faculty report a variety of challenges to teaching and student learning in a methods course, some of which focus on student-related, rather than course content issues. When examining teaching techniques, faculty indicate that having students conduct research is more of a conceptual teaching tool than it is a course goal. The findings also suggest a potentially missed opportunity for skill cultivation in the course. By learning what people think the purpose of the course is, faculty can make sure teaching practices align with those goals and more effectively accomplish them. The results of this study can also help faculty better communicate the “why” behind methods requirements, which may help students better see and appreciate the utility of methods, and improve students’ perceptions of the course.

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