Skills for Undergraduate Psychology Majors: Because You Need It, Do We Measure It?

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Educators have long been interested in knowing what their students know, and what they can do. In the United States, collegiate level grading began in 1783 at Yale University using the terms (from best to worst) optime, second optime, inferiores, and pejores. Based on this 4-point grading scale, grade point averages could now be calculated (Milton, Pollio, & Eison, 1986). Educators have been quantifying learning outcomes ever since. In my opinion, the bulk of our collective efforts has been to measure what our students know. My intention here is to make the point to students, and those who advise them, that psychology educators also need to acquire information from our students about what our students can do. Of course knowledge is important, but skill development is also important. The theme of skill development has been frequently mentioned in previous issues of Eye on Psi Chi (e.g., Appleby, 2000; Beins, 2003). When McGovern, Furumoto, Halpern, Kimble, and McKeachie (1991) wrote about the common goals that undergraduate education in psychology should aspire to, notice the emphasis on skills: knowledge base, thinking skills, language skills, information gathering and synthesis skills, research methods and statistics skills, interpersonal skills, history of psychology, and ethics and values (for more on the assessment of skills, see Graham (1998) and Halpern (1988)). You can see that the above-listed skills are the direct precursors to the current APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major (American Psychological Association, 2007). Each of the 10 undergraduate Guidelines is presented in the left column of Table 1.

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