Saturday, September 24, 2011


The Psychology course I took as part of general education was a bit strange grading-wise. The content of the course was great. We learned a lot of things about how the brain works, about memorization, careers in psychology, historical figures, and various other theoretical foundations of the field. I remember talking about Bernie Goetz, the Subway Vigilante, as I recall as an example of things people will do under extremely stressful circumstances.

One of the best parts of the course was watching The Mask. Part of the point was observing Ben Stein's role as a clinical psychologist analyzing Stanley's problems that the mask represented (which I unfortunately can't find a video for, but this is a great scene).

Where the course went a little weird, like I mentioned, was in the grading. As we would study each day's material, he would give us a couple related multiple choice questions (but not the answers). By the time of the midterm, we had a bank of questions (but not the answers) that he had given us, from which he wrote the test. In the study session before the midterm, we could ask questions about anything we wanted, so if there were multiple choice questions he had given us that were a little tricky, you could ask some questions about it and know pretty much what the right answer was. Basically, everyone aced the test.

His plan was to follow the same process for the final, and he did, but he let us know that a few people complained that the test was too easy, since he had given us all the possible questions. It was way more questions than would be on the test, and we did have to figure out the answers ourselves, but we had them nonetheless. Some people were apparently frustrated with the fact that you could just look up and memorize all the questions and answers and were worried that other students would pass without really learning anything about psychology. His response was that psychology is largely about the brain and memorization is a big part of that, so there was more psychology in how he gave us the questions than we might have thought. That was the flippant response anyway. The more serious response was that if anyone thought the process was too easy for them, they could get with him to write a paper on an approved topic related to the course content.

I don't know if anyone took him up on the offer. I didn't. I still wonder who was so uptight about a Psych 101 course being too easy. At work we've actually been working on a similar online course, and it's funny because some of the recommendations I made for the course would have turned it into something much more difficult (and I still maintain more rewarding). Thinking back on it, I should perhaps recommend students watch and write a paper on The Mask instead. I wonder how that will go over.

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