DIAGNOSIS WITHOUT A CLIENT: THE CHALLENGE OF UNDERGRADUATE CLIENT-BASED LEARNING
Teaching in the final year of undergraduate psychology in Australia poses a challenge that is rare in the training of other allied health professionals. Some instruction in abnormal psychology is an accreditation requirement for undergraduate psychology courses; however, students are prohibited from acting as psychologists, limiting the opportunity for client contact in learning environments. Developing relevant learning opportunities that allow students to gain knowledge and skills under these conditions is challenging. Intensifying this challenge is the need to design novel assessment that builds upon foundation knowledge given the advanced level of these students, and reflects the scientist-practitioner model; a model which underpins the practice and training of psychology internationally and is embodied in Australian course accreditation standards.
In the unit “Psychopathology”, a series of client-based tasks allow students to develop their knowledge and assessment and diagnosis skills within the mental health context and build an understanding of contemporary treatment techniques. Tutorials involve active learning experiences in a formative environment; skill-building and client-based learning are a focus in these classes. The use of case studies encourages deep learning by providing an opportunity to apply diagnosis and assessment skills developed in the tutorial program and procedural knowledge from the lecture program. The first piece of assessment requires students to apply this knowledge set and skills to a behaviour of their own that they wish to change and produce a case study report of the effectiveness of this treatment. The second piece of assessment, a case study, encourages deep learning by providing an opportunity to apply diagnosis and assessment skills developed in the tutorial program and procedural knowledge from the lecture program. Students encounter clients through written vignettes, video presentations and guest speakers and produce a full diagnostic reasoning report, treatment plan and prognosis. This adapted client-based approach provides an opportunity to for diagnosis and treatment skill development without the involvement of a client.
An evaluation of the teaching and learning techniques used indicated that over 90% of students were satisfied with the relevance of assessment, the presentation of classes, and the unit materials. Additionally, over 85% of students were satisfied with the workload, the difficulty of content topics and the quality of online activities provided. An additional evaluation tool revealed that 59% of students agreed or strongly agreed the classes helped them to understand how they might apply unit content to work tasks in the mental health industry. Over half of students also agreed or strongly agreed that the classes and the assessment in the unit had prepared them for tasks they might need to perform in future work (61.3% and 56.9%, respectively) and that the classes and assessment improved their understanding of what would be required if they worked in mental health (59.1% and 54.6%, respectively). Qualitative student feedback and reflections on teaching will also be discussed.
© 2008 Victor Karandashev