Basic psychology

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  • 555 students currently registered.
  • 58 of 72 recruited made ‘some’ contribution to the REAP pilot programme. These varied in quality.


  • 555 students currently registered.
  • The majority take the class as an elective.
  • 48 lectures over two semesters, plus 4 face-to-face tutorials, and 10 practicals.
  • It can be a little wearying…
  • Disasters can happen…
  • It can be a little repetitive…
  • But there is always a new dawn to look forward to.

The Pilot

  • Three online, WebCT-based tasks over three weeks.
  • Each task based on then current module – Language & Memory.
  • Increasing in complexity (the scaffolding principle).
  • 58 of 72 recruited made ‘some’ contribution to the REAP pilot programme. These ‘varied in quality’.

Task 1

  • 1 ) By 5 pm Wednesday 1st March you are all required to provide a 50 word response to the following question:
  • Define and describe structural encoding, phonological encoding, and semantic encoding. Provide an example of each construct.

Task 2

  • 1) As a group use the online group discussion to collaboratively provide a 100 word response to the following question:
  • Describe the serial position effect and its two separate components. Discuss the specific structural components of memory that are responsible for it.
  • 2) When you have reached an agreement over the main points/responses select one member of the group to submit your response to the Week 2  Submission Area.

Task 3

  • 1) As a group use the online group discussion to provide a collaborative 300 word response to the following mini-essay question:
  • Summarise the "Stage" theory of memory.  To what extent does it provide an  adequate theory of memory?

Task 2 - Two Example Answers

  • BOTH FROM GROUP 11 – Note that the ‘work collaboratively’ request did not have much effect on how these students answered.


  • Well home and away wasnt up to much so I decided to have a bash at putting all responses that have been made together.I'm not the best at psychology but I've done my best at taking snippits from everyones response to make an overall answer...Please dont hessitate to change any of it .I should be free at 12 im presuming not a lot of the group has lectures at 12 becuase its lunch so i would be good to meet then.... What time does everybody reckon???
  • The serial position is a memory-related term and refers to the tendency to recall information that is presented first and last. It supports the idea of our memory being split into 2 parts: the short term memory (STM) and the long term memory. (LTM). The serial position effect has two components, a primacy effect and a recency effect.
  • The primacy reflects the superior recall of the earlier items which provides that information retained at the start of a series is remembered due to the ability to store in STM, this however quickly fills up leaving out later info. The recency effect represents the superior recall of the most recent items,no additional info is being stored in the STM, so there is space for a short period of time.


  • Hey guys, lost my first here's my second... The serial position effect concerns an individual's ability to recall a piece of information which is dependant upon its order in a list of data. There are two principle features of the serial position effect: the primacy effect and the recency effect. The first refers to situations where the earlier the information in the list, the more likely the brain is to recall it.
  • Conversely then, the more recent the information, the better its chance of being recalled. Our short term memory is only capable of retaining somewhere in the region of 5-9 pieces of information at any given time (Peterson and Peterson, 1959) which means the tenth and eleventh are unable to be stored in this manner.
  • Some of the existing information may be transferred to the long term memory, due to its larger capacity, whilst the additional data may be lost. In relation to the recency effect, the most current information is likely to be freshly lingering in the short term memory, it has not been 'pushed out' by anything else. Thus it may be easier to recall.


  • Formal evaluation once (if) degree results become available.
  • Compare final marks of participating group with those of the rest of the class.
  • Pre- and post-pilot questionnaire comparisons.

Lessons so far (1)

  • Some students negotiate quite well in dividing labour and structuring an answer…

Example 1

  • This all sounds about right...but how are we going to divide up the task evenly...I mean it's not like we have the option of going off to each investigate an area...only have 100 words and there are five of us in the group!! Is there some way we could all agree to have something settled by the Friday morning?! Let me know, love Sarah.x

Example 2

  • yes im ok with meeting on the discussion board to post the thing, i think it is just 1 of us, but as a group we have to nominate someone. (i think people keep a wee eye on us when we are in here, reading what we are saying.. SPIES I TELL YOU, SPIES!!!) hehe! sorry. anyway... friday is a pretty full day for me i only have an hour to spare. but you are welcome to use any bit of my response, there are no copyright laws on it. ok so get back to me and let me know whats going to happen, cheers!!

Lessons so far (2)

  • Some don’t negotiate so well. E.g.
  • hey guys! so sorry for last week i didnt contribute at all. very busy week. the answer sounded good tho.

Managing contributions

  • Future tasks will impose limits on each student’s contributions. E.g.
  • 1) Define two of the following ten terms.
  • 2) Provide 10 words toward a 50 word answer showing how these effects interact…

Planned Development

  • Replace Friday lectures (i.e. half of the current 48-lecture programme) with online discussion of the current Friday lecture content.
  • Intention is to require students actively to develop themes raised in each Monday lecture, aided by guided reading and collaborative work.


  • Tasks will become progressively more demanding both within and across modules as the year progresses.
  • First session of the year will invite students to define and discuss terms. Second session will call for them to collaborate in writing a 50 word essay.
  • By the end of Semester Two, explain complex concepts and contribute to 300 word essays.

Monitoring and Feedback

  • Participation will be a course requirement.
  • Once a final group response has been agreed each student will submit his or her copy of it to an e-mail box.
  • Purpose here is to check on participation rates and to ensure that all students have at least ‘had sight’ of the group response.
  • Generic feedback will be provided after each exercise


  • Exam question selection may become skewed toward questions based on later modules. Solution: remodel exam format to oblige students to study earlier material.
  • Or, there may be good news: students’ improved analytical skills may generalise, helping their revision, comprehension, and presentation of the earlier material.

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