Pre-Class Coming Attractions: Interest and Program Awareness in the Classroom

Article excerpt

Slides similar to "Coming Attractions" shown in cinemas were displayed prior to classes at a mid-western university over three semesters. More than 140 PowerPoint slides, featuring humor, psychology content, and department/faculty information were presented immediately prior to undergraduate psychology class lectures. The primary goals were to increase interest in the class and knowledge of the department and its faculty. Questionnaires and pre- and posttests were used to assess how the pre-class slides affected students' class enjoyment and departmental and faculty awareness. Students reported that the slides were, in general, a positive addition to the classes. Statistical tests indicated that the slides increased students' familiarity with the psychology faculty, which may help integrate students into the psychology department.

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For new college students, institutional integration often starts in the class room (Booker, 2008). Institutional integration refers to students feeling that they are a part of their university and that they have good relationships with fellow students and faculty (Tinto, 1993). Effective classroom experiences and increased institutional integration are linked to higher attendance, retention, and performance (Borden & Evenbeck, 2007; Pascarella, Seifert, & Whitt, 2008). Classes need to focus on providing excellent student experiences and assist in institutional integration in addition to teaching content material. Students who have integrated into their institutions well tend to have better attendance, persistence and graduation rates (Borden & Evenbeck, 2007; Strage, 1999; Tinto, 2007).

Pascarella and Terenzini (1980) suggested familiarity with faculty resulted in stronger institutional integration. Likewise, incorporating humor into lectures can increase engagement and positive responses from students (Epting, Zinn, Buskist, & Buskist, 2004). Given that increased classroom attendance is related to improved performance and retention (Borden & Evenbeck, 2007; Clump, Bauer, & Whiteleather, 2003; Hudson, 2005; Pascarella, Seifert, & Whitt, 2008), it is important that students are motivated to attend.

In an effort to increase students' engagement, interest, departmental knowledge, and attendance, a series of pre-class slides were shown to multiple classes over three semesters. The intervention was modeled after movie trailers commonly shown prior to feature presentations in movie theaters. The primary goals of the intervention were to: (1) improve overall satisfaction with the course, (2) improve awareness of the psychology department and its faculty, and (3) to indirectly increase attendance. Although initially viewed as a "fun" addition to a class, the pre-class slides also served as a creative medium for informing students about the department and its faculty.

Method

Participants

A total of 153 undergraduate psychology students from a mid-western university participated in four studies of the pre-class slides, see Table 1. The first study used 48 students from a 2007 Fall semester course. The second study used 76 students from two consecutive semesters, Fall 2007 and Spring 2008. The third study used 85 students from two sections of the same course in Spring 2008, in which one class (n = 48) was shown the pre-class slides class and the other was not (n = 37). The fourth study used 20 students from a 2008 Summer semester course.

Materials

The first author constructed a series of 140 PowerPoint pre-class sides that featured information and humor about psychology and the university's psychology department. The pre-class slides were formatted to look like "coming attraction" trailer slides shown prior to featured movies in theaters. Slides covered four broad categories: mini-biographies of faculty, psychology departmental and university information, psychological content information, and psychological humor. …