Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Victor Karandashev,
Leningrad State University,
St. Petersburg, Russia,
Grand Valley State University,

Presentation (ppt)


I developed the Semiotic scale to measure people’s impressions about psychology knowledge. The scale measures semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic aspects of scientific knowledge. Semantic aspects concern how the knowledge reflects reality (i.e., how knowledge corresponds to the real world). Syntactic aspects concern how knowledge is constructed (i.e., the constituents of knowledge and how they are related to each other). Pragmatic aspects concern how people create, use, and value knowledge. The scale consists of 52 statements divided into three subscales. The Semantic subscale has 23 statements, the Syntactic scale has 14, and the Pragmatic scale has 15. Participants are asked: “Based on how psychology knowledge is presented in your introductory (general) psychology textbook, indicate to what extent psychology knowledge…” (focuses, represents, gives, applies, deals with certain attributes or features). Using a 1-7 scale, participants are asked to rate the extent to which the knowledge of introductory psychology is represented with certain semiotic attributes.

Items from the Semantic subscale address descriptive, explanatory, and predictive qualities of knowledge, objective or subjective, polysemantic, probabilistic, complex or simplistic nature of knowledge, how broad, general, abstract the knowledge is, and how it relates to certain other areas of cognition (e.g., philosophy, natural or social science, humanities, medical or educational science, or esoteric knowledge).

Items from the Syntactic subscale address such issues as: how ambiguously or precisely the knowledge is communicated, how systematic, flexible, creative, logical or intuitive, empirically valid, conceptual, or algorithmic it is.

Items from the Pragmatic subscale address such matters as: what personal or societal value the knowledge has, what academic or applied significance it bears, how authoritative, perspective, politically oriented, optimistic and ethical it is, and how attractive, comprehensible, cognitively stimulating it is.

The Semiotic scale was constructed in English and tested with students of two small liberal art colleges (Midwest of the USA) completed the survey at the end of introductory psychology class: college one - 111 participants, college two – 85 participants.

From the results obtained we can conclude pretty stable and moderately high rating (in the range 4.4 – 5.2 points on the 7 pts scale) of most semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic dimensions of Psychology knowledge. However there are some variations depending on the types of semiotic dimensions and items. The stability of rating is also evident in the SD (in the range 1-1.5).

The average scores for two colleges are different in many dimensions and items that show evidence of discriminate validity. However, they still hidden a variety of approaches in knowledge presentations that different instructors may employ.

The purpose of the research presented here is to describe a new instrument that scholars and instructors can use for assessing people’s impressions of psychology knowledge.

For further direction of research using the semiotic scale it can be interesting and useful to compare:

(1) the different units of the course and textbook; (2) the different texts; (3) impressions of instructors and their students; (4) the different psychology disciplines; (5) Psychology to other disciplines in terms of their semiotic dimensions.

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