Honor’s Psychology

An excellent Preparation for graduate or professional school, the Honor’s Program in Psychology provides an intimate and intellectually challenging environment within the larger Temple University setting.  Students are not only exposed to a panoramic view of psychology, but also participate with professors and graduate students in cutting-edge research that they help to design and implement.  The Honor’s Program takes students a step beyond independent studies by offering an integrated educational experience for motivated students who want the advantage of an honor’s degree.  Honor’s is available to students who have completed at least two years of undergraduate training and who have achieved a 3.5 or better cumulative average in psychology.  Email professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek at khirshpa@temple.edu for more information.

Psychology Honor’s . . . Where preparation meets opportunity.


The guiding philosophy behind the program is this: you have demonstrated the ability to be researchers, working closely with faculty and graduate students in their research programs and labs.  If this appeals to you, and if you think you might want to continue your academic career with graduate studies we want to give you an opportunity to become a researcher now so that you can add this to your resume and have a head start.   


To this end, the Honor’s program in psychology is designed to achieve four goals: 1) To provide the student with an integrated panoramic view of the field of psychology; 2) To offer the students an in depth course in the “language” of scientific methodology and in critical thinking; 3) To engage, empower and energize students by having them grapple with key issues within subareas of psychology in ways that encourage them to make independent contributions to the field; and 4) To provide each student with an intimate and individualized experience that will prepare him/her for his/her future career.


To achieve these goals the program is designed as a two year study that begins with a year long investigation of methodology, critical thinking and writing, and culminates in the production of a senior thesis and student poster session.   Students enter the program as 391 students and must take one semester of 391 and a consecutive semester of 392 to complete the full  year.  The 391 and 392 students are required to meet for every class while the upper level students (393 and 394) who are working on their independent projects and who need more time with their advisors  are required to attend only half of the  classes.  Thus, the class is fashioned so that lectures form a kind of class within a class.  Given this structure, let me demonstrate how each of the goals is  realized.


1.) To provide the student with an integrated panoramic view of the field of psychology.


Over the past 10 years, I have read a number of articles focusing on the “fractionation” of psychology.  These articles have been published in the American Psychologist, and the “rag” sheet from Division 1 of APA (General Psychology) among other sources.  This problem of fractionation is perhaps even more apparent at Temple because of the way in which we present psychology in our Psych 50 course and because our department is organized through a divisional structure.  Perchance we can do no better for our students than to present the field as a group of separate areas.  Yet, after struggling with other faculty on this issue at Swarthmore and Haverford Colleges as well as at Temple, I did come up with a way to present us as a more coherent field -- through the philosophical assumptions that drive the questions that we ask and through the methodological options that we exercise as a field.  Thus, one goal of the honor’s course is to help students  see the field as (at least slightly) more coherent than it might at first appear.


To give a broader view of the field and to allow student to experience all aspects of the field, I present psychology in two different ways --  one through common themes or problems that bridge the subdisciplines and one through divisional structures and interrelationships between the divisions . The thematic approach to psychology has taken a number of different forms throughout years. I always craft this around topics that a number of our faculty can comment on. This year begins as a thematic based year.  For the first semester, we will study “burning topics” in the field and the ways in which these topics in our culture help us to frame research questions.  In part, child care research will serve as a model.  Other topics to be discussed might include teenage violence, welfare to work, psychology in the workplace, the psychology of boys, etc.  With the new interest in the burgeoning field of applied psychology, we ask how psychological research -- especially field research -- might inform policy.  The class was to work in groups to design several researchable questions that could be derived from the “burning questions.”


With the help of generous faculty from each of our divisions, students in the second semester will be exposed to top class researchers that represent the full range of areas within psychology (or at least within our department) and can see how these psychologists work together.  By way of example,  I present psychology through the eyes of the divisions and try to stress the kinds of questions and methods that each area of psychology might utilize. Professors present their research and discuss a) how their research fits into the broader division that they represent and b) how they feel that the division fits into the larger picture of psychology.  This year, the divisional approach will be presented as students visit experimental laboratories in behavioral, cognitive, developmental, social  and clinical research.   These classroom field trips and lectures will offer a bird’s eye view of how laboratory research is conducted along witht he strengths and weaknesses of true experimental design.


In short, then, the thematic and divisional approaches to psychology are experienced by each student before they exit the program and attempts are made to find the most recent and engaging topics that display psychology as an integrated rather than a fractionated field.  The students also have exposure to the faculty in our department as they go through this process.  Thus, they come to see psychology in action and to consider a number of different options for thier own area of research.


2) To offer the students an in depth course in the “language” of scientific methodology and in critical thinking.


Just as some classes give the panoramic view of the field, the majority of classes supplement the overview with an in depth exploration of methodology.  I attempt to yoke some of the methodological discussions to the lectures so that the students get to see methods in a context.  The methods class is a bit unconventional in that it is broader than the average method’s class.  I begin with an area that many of our brightest students have problems with -- how one derives a psychologically interesting question.  To this end, I work the students through a bit of the philosophy of science and through a history of psychology before moving to a discussion of methodology per se.  In the first semester, we work on issues that arise in field research and towards an understanding of the “true” experimental design.  In the second semester, I use the true experimental design as a starting point but instead of praising its virtues, I also talk about its weaknesses.  Alternatively, I present a number of other models that can be used within the field to address questions that are not well suited to the true experimental design.  This allows the students to see that methods are inherently linked to the questions that we ask . We also discuss how statistics is also a natural partner in this design.  From the framing of the question to the creation of a research project, we take a year long journey through methods.  Along the way, we also pay special attention to writing: be it mastery of APA style, writing of critiques, etc.  By the time that the students exit, they are at least familiar with the methodological language of our field and they have seen how methods play centrally into our scientific discipline.


  3)  To engage, empower and energize students by having them grapple with key issues within subareas of psychology in ways that encourage them to make independent contributions to the field.


Even the best and brightest students enter this class as passive learners and as mediocre writers.  Memorization has been viewed as a key to receiving an A.  Performance, not process is viewed as the key to learning.  In this class, I stress students’  role as active learners and explorers.  Teaching through dialogue and Socratic method, students come to own rather than to just learn the material.  Throughout the classroom discussions and independent research, students are transformed into scientists taking a new pride in their accomplishments.


4) To provide each student with an intimate and individualized experience that will prepare him/her for his/her future career.


Temple is a big school. Thus, even our best students sometimes recede into the background becoming one among many faces.  Because many of our students are first generation college students and because we don’t often have adequate advising for them, they often fail to realize their individual potentials.  To fill this gap, I elected to become the academic advisor for each of the students in the honor’s program.  I not only go over their roster each semester, but make suggestions about  classes, minor areas for study and graduate programs.  I read every application before they send it to the graduate programs and help them to write the strongest possible statements.  I also write recommendations for them and will make introductory phone calls where appropriate.  While this takes a fair amount of time, I have found over the years  that our students need this extra support.  It is critically important that this system stay in place and that time be made to shepherd them through the graduate application system as many have no models for graduate study beyond the thesis advisor and the honor’s advisor.  Getting to know the students is not only a wonderful experience for the advisor, but is also invaluable for them so that the recommendations are not bland when they apply to graduate school.


Students are invited into the course based on their GPA or a faculty letter of recommendation.  At the end of the second year, I obtain a list of all the students’ names who have achieved a GPA of 3.5 or greater.  These students are invited to an initiation and are recruited into our program.


The requirements are listed on the enclosed sheet.  Basically, our students fulfill all of the psychology requirements save 1 : they need not take two, but only one 270 series class.  They also have to take extra courses in the form of 391, 392, 393, and 394.  The latter two courses are taken when the student has chosen an advisor and is ready to begin the independent research.   It is important to note that while the program is designed as a two year program, some do take it in three semesters -- taking 392 and 393 at the same time.  Students are also expected to take 328 which is an advanced statistical course designed to supplement the student’s independent research projects.


Upon completion of the program, students must submit a written thesis to their major research advisor and to a secondary reader.  They must also participate in the Honor’s Poster session that is open to the entire department.  These poster sessions have always been wonderful opportunities for the students to show off their work.  Recently, I have also strongly encouraged our students to also participate in the Undergraduate APA research forums.

Administrative Duties

Along with the regular program, there are certain traditions that have become associated with the Honor’s program. Some of them are carried out each year and some only occasionally -- or when student energy is high enough.


a) Psi Chi:  Honor’s students are encouraged to join the psychology honor society.


b) Graduate application meeting:  In October of each year, we also have a meeting about applying to graduate school in which I outline how to write an application letter and how to research for appropriate graduate programs.


c) GRE Prep:  Also in October -- before the GRE, we often meet to discuss strategies for taking the GRE Exams and go over some of the kinds of questions that will be asked.


d) Grades: Grades for 391 and 392 are assigned by the class instructor.  In general, grades are based upon written assignments and a final examination.  It is important to note that I have in the past given 4 papers per term and have allowed students multiple rewrites on these papers.  Students can choose not to rewrite a paper and to receive the original grade.  They rarely make that choice, however.  Thus, in general, students turn in two to three papers for every one paper assigned.


For 393 and 394, it is important to get input from the major advisor.  Thus, forms are send two weeks prior to the end of the semester to solicit feedback from he major advisor.  On these forms, I indicate how the student has done in the classes and ask for written comments in a number of different areas.  The questions on the evaluation form were derived with student input and are kept on file so that the student can see them if their advisor gives permission.


e) Poster session: The poster session is held either at the end of the both  semesters, or if few are graduating at the end of Winter term, at the end of the Spring term. Students work with advisors to create a poster that is like those presented at professional conferences. 


f) Listserve: All of the students are expected to sign up for the honor’s dialogue that we have on Listserve.  Class outlines for classes are available over listserve, but we discuss substantive issues that arise in the class.  By contacting Stan Horowitz at the computer center, you can set up the service -- a service that must be renewed each year.  Students have access to each other and with the professor enriching the interactions. To get on listserve, students must also have a computer account, making it more likely that they will surf the net and be able to use more modern techniques for researching a topic (we actually spent a day teaching these techniques to the students this year.)


Temple Psychologyhttp://www.temple.edu/psychology/
Course Syllabushttp://astro.temple.edu/~khirshpa/syllibi/honors.doc