Rappahannock Community College’s vice president of instruction and student development, Dr. Donna Alexander, is the co-author (with Lawrence J. Venuk) of an article titled “A psychology lab for intro? And at community colleges?” that appears in the current issue of Psychology Teachers Network (PTN), a nationally-distributed online periodical that exists to provide a forum for learning new things helpful to teaching psychology. It is supported by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Alexander’s article offers guidelines for developing a psychology laboratory to enhance the teaching of introductory psychology courses, something that is common at four-year schools, but unusual at community colleges. The APA recommends exposure to hands-on research, “whether by participating in a virtual lab, designing simple experiments, or otherwise collecting and analyzing data,” as providing multiple benefits to students. “Understanding the scientific method through direct application is an important aspect of scientific literacy, and contributes to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related competencies,” says the report of the APA Task Force on “Strengthening the Common Core of the Introductory Psychology Course.”
The article proposes a series of steps that should lead to a fully-functioning student lab: build favor and consensus for establishing the lab; prepare a budget; secure space, preferably a room that will hold 24 to 36 students comfortably; obtain equipment; teach correct and safe lab procedures; determine what makes a rewarding lab experience, and provide it; collect data assessing the lab experience; and be confident that you can and should create a psychology lab for your students. The final instruction is to “Have fun!” To read the complete article, please visit www.apa.org/ed/precollege/ptn/2016/11/psychology-lab.aspx
Dr. Alexander graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in English and master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology. Starting with adjunct faculty appointments and then moving to full-time faculty status, Alexander has taught at community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. During her years as a graduate student, she worked part-time for VCU as an academic and career counselor, a researcher, an adult education tutor, and an instructor of English as a second language.