In many student’s eyes, psychology is one of the most engaging and interesting subjects in college.
That’s for three reasons:
- We all have personal stories to share. Psychology brings these stories out in full color and emotions.
- Psychology helps us understand ourselves better, by gaining new perspectives on our own experiences.
- It’s fascinating to discuss the study of our mind and behavior with others. Relating to others about thought processes is often a rewarding experience.
Lectures are great for getting students introduced to new ideas, but the next step is to let students engage with the content by letting them ask questions. When students feel that they have a safe space to ask questions, they naturally seek to connect the dots and find where psychology is relevant in their lives. That’s why developing students’ ability to ask great questions makes for effective student engagement.
When you create a high level of engagement, you turn the lever inside a student’s head that says “this is fun,” and “I can see where I can apply this in my life.”
This is extremely important for psychology, where interesting questions are abundant.
According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, it’s advantageous to focus on higher levels of engagement with the material. We’ve created our whole company off of the idea that students can–and should–reach the higher levels of learning: Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create.
Students who use Packback Questions specifically are coached into developing all four of these skills in order to ask great questions. Take for example this question, in a Physiological Psychology course:
This student is curious to hear from people who don’t personally accept depression as a mental disorder. She expands on her experience in relation to the question.
Early on in my college career I use to hear several people state that depression was not a disorder and that no one needed medication for it. Their beliefs were that depression was a state of mind that the individual could change at any time. You could show them the facts, and they would stand firm in these beliefs. I am curious to know if anyone out there still chooses this stance and why? Or, if anyone has a friend that believes this for specific reasons, please share.
She hints at why getting the answer would mean a lot to her, as it gives her context to understand her own situation.
Perhaps she has a friend going through depression. Maybe she has depression herself.
By bravely opening up to her class, she is able to create a dialogue about people who disagree with certain theories and then explain why. The answers to her question might be exactly what she needs to mend present relationships and approach future relationships.
Open dialogue is key to student engagement.
A safe space to ask questions–like what is provided in Packback communities–allows the other students to open up as well and create an answer based off of their critical thinking up to this point in their lives.
Take for example, how this student shares a deeply personal story to explain what led him to his current understanding of depression:
This person started off skeptical and uncertain about depression as a mental illness, but he goes on to talk about what made him change his mind:
My best friend in the world who is also a psychology major told me she had chronic depression and that she was beginning medication. I listened to her and we had a open conversation about it and since have changed my opinion and understand the need for medication.
This student’s answer provides value for the original student to create new knowledge from. It also gets him to reflect on his situation and share his thought process with the class.
This high level of critical thought is extremely common on Packback Questions.
When students answer questions so willingly and openly, other students get to analyze and evaluate multiple viewpoints and make their own judgment. Additionally, by asking high-level questions that invite challenging, interesting discussion, the students create a community of curiosity around psychology that is engaging and fun.
We believe that with Packback Questions, these students will carry more curiosity and higher critical thinking skills into whatever they choose to pursue.
Written by Evan Le
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