Senate Document Number     7309S


Date of Senate Approval      04/09/09


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Statement of Faculty Senate Action:


APC Document 58:                                           Change in the Capstone Requirement in Psychology



Effective Date:  Fall 2009



1.  Add:  On page 246, new capstone course PSYC 412:


412      Senior Seminar in Psychology (4)

An in-depth examination of psychological knowledge and/or practice in one of three types of seminars: 1) topical, in which students read about and discuss an area of psychological research, and then write about an aspect of it in a formal literature review; 2) practicum, in which students work in a community setting concerned with the well-being of others, and then write a literature review related to their work; or 3) research, in which students undertake a scientific study by reviewing previous research, collecting and analyzing data, and, then write a report of results. Students also practice formal and informal public speaking. Prerequisites: Senior standing and 24 hours in Psychology. Fall and Spring.




PSYC 412 is designed to replace our single-course demonstration of competency (PSYC 390), which will be phased out during the next year. PSYC 412 will provide seniors with three optional capstone experiences, each of which addresses a common core of learning outcomes identified by the Department as critical for all seniors. The number of hours required for the psychology major will be increased by one once this course is fully implemented.


At present the Department must provide a senior capstone experience for approximately 90-100 students per year.  During the 2008-2009 academic year, we have offered 5 sections of PSYC 390 (enrollment cap = 20) to meet this demand.  Enrollment caps for PSYC 412 will be set at a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 15 students, requiring us to offer approximately 7-8 sections per year (up to 4 each semester).  The Department will be able to staff the additional course sections created by the smaller class size of PSYC 412 in two ways.  First, PSYC 463 (Field Work), currently capped at 10 students, will be phased out as we transition to PSYC 412. We presently teach 4 sections of PSYC 463 per year, thereby freeing two faculty to teach two sections each of the capstone (Type 2).  Second, the Department typically offers 1-2 Special Topics courses per year with an average class size of 10-15; in the future, these courses will be offered as PSYC 412 (Type 1).  Specifically, during the 2008-2009 academic year, we offered 4 sections of Field Work and 1 topical seminar; combining these with the 5 sections of Psych 390 offered in this same time period, we offered a total of 10 sections of courses that will now be subsumed under the PSYC 412 requirement.               


PSYC 412 will also be the course in which oral competency is demonstrated. The present method for evaluating oral competency involves most members of the department who teach 300 or 400-level courses for majors. Each faculty member must complete a written form indicating competency and providing feedback. This process is cumbersome in terms of paperwork, and it spreads the task of evaluating oral competency across many faculty members and courses, thereby decreasing uniformity of results. Incorporating demonstration of oral competency into PSYC 412 should result in more uniform evaluations of competency using a smaller core of faculty and requiring no specific documentation. During the phase-out period for PSYC 390, it will also be the course used for demonstrating oral competency.


This change has no effect on hours required for a minor, or for any other university requirement, but it could potentially affect teacher licensure students in the K-6, B-K and K-12 Reading programs, if those students major in psychology.



After engaging in extensive discussions about the nature of our capstone course, Psychology faculty arrived at a common set of teaching objectives for the senior capstone course, based on guidelines adopted by the American Psychological Association: a) to implement a developmental and systematic approach to required writing; b) to provide multiple opportunities for developing speaking skills, including a formal presentation; c) to provide opportunities for scholarship requiring the synthesis of knowledge and skill in a specific content area, and d) to provide multiple opportunities for collaboration in conjunction with preparation and developmental feedback. 


PSYC 412 will be offered in three different seminar formats, each of which addresses our common teaching objectives for the capstone course: a) a topical seminar, in which students will read, write and speak about the scientific literature in a selected area of psychology; b) a practicum seminar, in which students will read, write, and speak about the applied scientific literature as it relates to clinical and community experiences; and c) a research seminar, in which students will read, write, and speak about the scientific literature in the context of an individual or group research project.    


The three-option format for our capstone course is primarily designed to better meet the needs of our senior psychology majors, who often do very different things upon graduation. While the majority of our majors enter the workforce immediately after graduation, the jobs they seek vary widely from helping professions to education to business. Even among majors who pursue graduate study, career goals are also quite diverse, including research-oriented fields of psychology, service-oriented degrees in counseling or social work, or professional degrees in allied health or law. In addition, the flexible format of the capstone seminar also gives our faculty some choice and freedom in selecting a seminar format that is best suited to their expertise and interests at a given time.


Finally, the Psychology Department has required our current capstone course (History and Systems of Psychology) for at least a decade, and we have concluded that it meets virtually none of the objectives described above. With an average class size of 20 and a narrowly identified body of content, PSYC 390 simply fails to provide our graduating seniors with the type of experience we are seeking in a capstone course.  We are not yet deleting PSYC 390 from the Catalog to allow for a transitional year for both faculty and students, during which we will phase in our new capstone course.  Similarly, we will retain PSYC 463 (Fieldwork) for a transitional year, as it is similar in content to the practicum version of our new capstone course.