Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Nurper Gökhan,
LaGuardia Community College/The City University of New York,


As part of a term project, students in Writing-Intensive Introductory Psychology classes examined a psychological concept, based on self-reflections made on an art piece of their choosing at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Since this was a “staged” project, students worked towards their final goal beginning with the second week of classes. Most of the term paper required them to work outside the classroom, i.e., museum and library, although some parts, such as the “Warm-Up” exercises designed to have students reflect and engage in free-associations with art pieces, were done during class time. Since this project was partially supported by the ‘Looking Through MoMA” program, a MoMA educator provided a guided tour in the museum and an in-class presentation to help students understand how to look at art and have them make reflections more freely. Although students were required to research the art and the artist briefly, the focal point of this project was research of the psychological concept and therefore, art was used as a tool of exploration. Students could examine the piece of art itself, or the artist, e.g., their personality, background, or philosophy to connect to a psychological concept. Some of the past reflections done by students are: Miro and Psychoanalysis; Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (1931) and Alzheimer’s Dementia processes; van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) and the role of spirituality in one’s happiness; Rauschenberg’s Bed (1955) and the function of dreams; and Warhol’s Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times (1963) and the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Another stage of the project consisted of library research training sessions conducted by a librarian to develop and expand students’ research skills. During the various stages of the project, students received feedback from both the instructor and their peers. For example, students gave each other feedback on the quality and the appropriateness of their research sources, e.g., articles, books and chapters, after completing their library work by using the “Peer-Critique of Research Form”, while the instructor provided in-class supervision. When the students handed in their first complete draft for revision, they provided two copies of their work, one for the instructor and one for an assigned classmate who gave feedback following a detailed “Peer-Review Sheet” which contained specific questions and editorial tasks. The final product which followed the American Psychological Association (APA) writing format was graded on the basis of a detailed “Grading Rubric” which specified points for various categories, e.g., quality of ideas, organization and development, clarity and style, sentence structure and mechanics, participation in peer-review, and timely completion of stages. In conclusion, this staged psychology project accomplished the following goals: to teach how to write a quality term paper by engaging in scholarly research; to have students experience writing as a process that requires thoughtful planning; to expose students to the tenets of Liberal Arts education through the world of art and psychology; and finally to have students make a personal connection to psychology.

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