Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Math Invades Psychology Class

Frequency Histogram for Composite Scores on Final Exam
 Students tend to have strong feelings about mathematics...so when the topic comes up in AP Psych I usually get a "love it" or "hate it" reaction from students. Regardless of one's emotional response to math, however, it is helpful to know some basic statistical concepts if you're trying to make sense of some things in psychology, particularly test score interpretation (e.g. in intelligence and personality testing).

So, in addition to the practice on basic descriptive statistics students are completing for tomorrow (to access the accompanying PsychSim Module for this WS, click here), we've been using some meaningful examples of score distributions to become more comfortable with the topic. Particularly, we've been examining performance data from our 1st Semester final (which, as the frequency histogram above illustrates, distribute rather normally).

However, if you're still feeling confused about z-scores, the normal curve, percentile ranks, and standard deviation, there are a number of great websites out there to give you some guidance (unfortunately, our text does not go into a great amount of detail about these statistical concepts). Consider consulting any of these for review:
If you come across any other sites that you feel would be helpful to a beginning psych student, please include them in the comments section. I'd love to add them to my list.

Friday, January 6, 2012

MacGyver & Functional Fixedness

Today we tackle functional fixedness as a problem-solving obstacle. For inspiration, some video clips of TV icons known for successfully (and not-so-successfully) overcoming this common problem. From the 1980s TV Show, MacGyver:

And the later SNL parody, MacGruber:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Marshmallow Challenge

A 3rd Hour team completes the tallest tower of the day: 31''!
Today in class we kicked off our unit on cognition by tackling a now-fairly-famous team problem-solving task: The Marshmallow Challenge. Our teams' performances very closely mimicked the findings of Tom Wujec, which he summarizes in the brief talk I've embedded below.

The task is an excellent illustration of the complexities inherent in problem-solving (e.g. mental set interferes with effective design, incentives don't always work the way you would think, communication problems and social jockeying can be an issue, etc.).

Winning team from 7th Hour
 Throughout the day we had 16 of 24 teams successfully construct towers that held the marshmallow, very close to the success rate found by Wujec (60%). The tallest tower measured 31 inches and was completed by Nick, Rachel, Sam, and Kayla in my 3rd hour class!

If you've got some spaghetti, marshmallows, and some string and tape, maybe you would want to try this out with your own family tonight. :-)

Note to my fellow psych teachers who follow this blog: this was the first year I attempted this task with students, and I'd highly recommend it. Not only does it serve as a great jumping-off point for conversations about problem-solving, but it is engaging and the supplies are cheap. To do this with 100 students today I only had to spend $14! (A bargain compared to some of my other demos/activities for the same amount of people.)

More complete instructions are available here.

Probably the cutest marshmallow of the day: Smiley!

Monday, January 2, 2012

What's Ahead in AP Psych?

Happy New Year!

I'm here at school working on getting ready for the upcoming week and for our final content unit prior to the end of the semester - no small task after a busy lead-up to Christmas break! You all were able to relax a bit and catch up on some much-needed rest over these past days. We'll hit the ground running tomorrow, so I thought I'd give you a head's up about what January's busy schedule looks like.

Students can begin reading content from Chapter 10, as we will begin exploring that information (on thinking and language) in class tomorrow. The quiz on Chapter 10 will take place MONDAY, JAN. 9th.
 Per usual, there will be a study session prior to this unit's test. That optional test prep opportunity will take place THURSDAY, JAN. 12th, as the unit test will be FRIDAY, JAN. 13th.

Following the unit test, we will immediately begin reviewing for the semester final. Students will get a chance to get a jump on their reviewing during a weekend review session scheduled for SUNDAY, JAN. 15th from NOON - 2 PM. (Note: on the course syllabus I scheduled this for 5-7 pm, but I've altered the timing since I anticipate that a fair number of my students will want to be free to watch the Packer game, which starts at 3:30 PM that day).

The following week during class will find us reviewing in various ways on Monday and Tuesday, and there is a final evening study session scheduled for TUESDAY, JAN. 17th from 5 - 7 PM.

 Students will get more information about the content and format of the final exam in the coming weeks, but I thought I'd get the dates out there to you as a reminder to schedule in your reviewing time carefully.

Let's get ready to finish the semester strong, everyone! Welcome back.
Final exams will take place from Jan 18-20 at Chi-Hi. :)

Dreams Video & Viewing Questions

For those who were absent for part or all of the Dreams video we viewed in class December 20-21, I've embedded the full playlist below. While viewing the video in class, students used this viewing guide to organize their notes. I suggest that, if you missed the video, you watch and complete the viewing guide as well.