NSF grant benefits psychology education across four schools

by University Communications,

With a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation, psychology professors Melissa Witkow and Courtney Stevens are working to improve students’ scientific literacy and quantitative reasoning skills.

The grant, totaling $248,454, benefits Chemeketa Community College, Mt. Hood Community College, Oregon State University and Willamette University. Working with colleagues at each school, Witkow and Stevens will help develop, evaluate and disseminate research-validated teaching modules in introductory psychology courses.

Their goal is to improve scientific reasoning skills among first-year students. With that comes a rigorous evaluation of materials, so psychology professors will know if and when the texts are effective.

“(We want to) create resources that place the emphasis less on facts and findings and more on interpreting data and critically evaluating evidence,” Stevens says.

“In this day and age, everyone has easy access to information. But if you can’t evaluate that information critically, the access is worthless."

To help Witkow and Stevens with their project, Brenna Smelt ’16 is identifying topics and articles of interest to students. She’s also building the initial versions of activities Witkow and Stevens will test this coming year.

Smelt, a psychology major, is including her work in her senior thesis capstone project.