Emphasizing Transferable Skills in Undergraduate Cognitive Psychology is Associated With Higher Grades

Publication Name

Teaching of Psychology


Background: Cognitive psychology is challenging for both teachers and learners due to the abstract and complex nature of mental processes and variation in student motivation. Objective: To test the effectiveness of an approach that seeks to motivate students to engage and successfully complete a cognitive psychology course by highlighting transferrable skills. Method: A cognitive psychology course was redesigned to emphasize the transferability of skills. It involved providing students with scaffolded assessments, just-in-time learning, and drawing explicit connections between knowledge, skill development, and real-world applications. Results: Comparison of student performance before and after course modifications showed a significant increase in learning outcomes, especially for students at the lower end of the performance spectrum. Conclusion: A program of scaffolded assessment with just-in-time skills reinforcement and explicit discussion of the broader application of those skills is an effective approach to teaching cognitive psychology. Teaching implications: This program produced a reliable improvement in learning outcomes in a course with a high level of theoretical and abstract content. The improvement was most noticeable in lower achieving students; however, all students benefit from a better developed transferable skill base and an awareness that can be used to articulate skills to potential employers.

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