The various student gains and reported satisfaction with self-management projects have been well documented. However, we found that few psychology programs explicitly teach these skills. In this paper we demonstrate how self-management projects can meet nine out of the ten undergraduate student learning goals outlined by the APA Task Force (2002). We then provide an example of how we incorporated such a project in an undergraduate psychology class and embedded the assessment of learning outcomes within evaluation of the projects. We present our rubric and results based on 68 (56 women, 12 men) student projects. Lastly, we discuss the many benefits of assigning self-management projects to justify inclusion of such assignments and encourage instruction of self-management skills in psychology classes.
Keywords: self-management, self-improvement, student learning outcomes, self-modification, self-directed, self-change
The American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on Undergraduate Psychology Major Competencies lists ten goals that psychology majors are expected to attain (2002). One of the ten goals listed is "Personal Development" (the goals are shown in the second column of Table 1). For the personal development goal, the Task Force specifies that students should develop insight into their own and others' behavior and apply effective strategies for self-management and self-improvement. However, it is not clear that psychology programs regularly include formal instruction that leads to this goal or assess achievement of this learning goal through student learning outcomes. The objective of this paper is to justify the need for direct instruction of self-management skills in psychology classes and to generate interest in teaching self-management skills to students.
In this paper, we demonstrate a classroom assignment that not only provides direct instruction for the goal of "Personal Development," but that also addresses eight of the ten additional goals as expressed by the APA. We begin with a review of known benefits that students gain from learning self-management strategies. We then discuss the apparent lack of direct instruction found in many of the top undergraduate psychology programs in the United States. We then provide a demonstration of a classroom-based project along with its evaluation and assessment. We finish with a discussion of the benefits, for students and faculty, of assigning self-management projects that justify inclusion of such assignments in psychology classes.
Known benefits of teaching Self-Management skills
There is a growing body of evidence-based teaching methods and conceptual and empirical papers on the benefits of teaching self-management skills (see Barrera & Glasgow, 1976; Brigham, Hopper, Hill, De Armas, & Newsom, 1985; Dean, Malott, & Fulton, 1983; Hamilton, 1980; Hamilton & Waldman, 1983; McGaghie & Menges, 1975; Mitchell & White, 1977; Payne & Woudenberg, 1978; Rakos & Grodek, 1984; Schutte & Malouff, 1990). Despite practical and ethical challenges in conducting research on self-management training, there is evidence that participants who used self-management tactics improved academic performance, productivity and accuracy (e.g., Dean et al., 1983; Maag, Reid, & Digangi, 1993; Tichenor, 1977; Wolfe, Heron, & Goddard, 2000), study habits and test-taking skills (e.g., Watson, 2001), class participation (e.g., Barrera & Glasgow, 1976), and gained meaningful practice using both logical thinking and scientific methodology (e.g., Marshall & Heward, 1979; Moxley, 1998). Additionally, participants learned to better cope with panic attacks (e.g., Carlbring, Westling, Ljungstrand, Ekselius, & Anderson, 2001) and to decrease off-task behavior in class, smoking, over-eating, teeth grinding, and nail-biting (e.g., Gumpel & David, 2000; Lipinski, Black, Nelson, & Ciminero, 1975; Maletsky, 1974; Pawlicki & Galotti, 1978; Wood, Murdock, Cronin, Dawson, & Kirby, 1998).
Although findings based on student self-reports of self-management success may be inflated (see Worthington, 1977), researchers consistently found that students report high satisfaction with the use of self-management assignments (e.g., Dodd, 1986; Hamilton, 1980). Furthermore, the use of self-management techniques increased students' knowledge of behavioral change procedures (e.g., Damsteegt, 1982; Dean, Malott & Fulton, 1983) and skills in dealing with clients (Bennett-Levy et al., 2001). For detailed descriptions of how to teach self-management skills see Tasto (1976), Watson and Tharp (2001), or Malott (2005).
Direct Instruction of Self-Management Skills
Teaching self-management skills enables us to target our goals in the psychology major and produce self-controlled individuals (see Dewey, 1939, on the ideal aim of education). The most appropriate teachers of these skills are professors of psychology and experts of applied behavioral science, yet psychology course work most often focuses on general and/or specific theories, principles, concepts, statistical analysis, and research methodology. These topics are appropriate, but are lacking in terms of teaching important Personal Development skills, as outlined by the APA.
The benefits of teaching self-management to psychology students have been well-documented in research, as discussed earlier. However, it appears that top psychology programs do not offer specific courses in self-management and very few appear to offer this information within coursework.
We examined the course catalogues and department websites of the top 30 undergraduate psychology departments, as ranked by Gourman (1997), and the National Research Council, (1995). We searched course titles and course descriptions for keywords "self-improvement," "self-management," "self-directed," "self-modification," and "self-change" with and without the hyphen. While we acknowledge that a topic missing from a course description does not necessarily mean that the topic is in fact missing from the course, we found that fewer than 10% of the programs we searched explicitly state that self-management skills are covered within the programs' coursework.
This low percentage may be attributed to budget deficits, large classroom sizes, and the perception that teaching self-management would increase instructional workload; yet despite these obstacles, psychology professors are expected to effectively increase student learning opportunities. In order to do so efficiently, it is becoming increasingly necessary to find ways to incorporate new (or neglected) learning opportunities, such as self-management skills, within the framework of the course itself without detracting from the course's intended content.
It is common practice for psychology courses to require students to propose and develop research studies and to gather, analyze and discuss data. However, it is not common for those research projects to address the "Personal Development" aspect of the APA's expressed goals for psychology majors. Conversely, for student-developed self-management projects, the "Personal Development" goal is commonly the main focus of the project, whereby the other APA goals may be neglected. What is needed is a project that addresses this goal in addition to the other APA goals, but does not increase faculty workload in terms of time or extra assignments.
We now demonstrate how a single self-management project, incorporated within a course, can meet nine of the ten student learning goals outlined by the APA Task Force. We also show how assessment of these goals can be simple and embedded within the evaluation of the projects.
Sixty-eight (56 women, 12 men) of 74 undergraduate students enrolled in a course on Learning and Behavior at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) during the fall semester, 2008, consented to the use of their self-management assignments for this study. CSUN's Institutional Review Board for Protection of Human Subjects approved the use of these data for research purposes. Eighty-eight percent of the students were psychology majors (86% seniors, 14% juniors). The ethnic breakdown was: 33% Hispanic, 32% Caucasian, 10% Pacific Islander or Asian, 5% African-American, 4% Middle Eastern, and 12% who declined to comment. The course was taught by the first author, a professor in the Department of Psychology.
The materials included a self-management project and a rubric for evaluating the project. The self-management project required students to (a) select and operationally define a target behavior for change, (b) propose methods to measure the behavior, (c) observe the behavior, collect and graph baseline data, (d) propose possible function(s) of the behavior, (e) find and summarize one empirical research article related to their target behavior, (f) develop an intervention and modify the behavior, (g) collect, graph and evaluate intervention data, and (h) write a final report using APA manuscript style.
The rubric contained seven items. We used a YES/NO dichotomy to evaluate each student's performance on various aspects of the project (i.e., "Yes, student met criterion" or "No, student did not meet criterion"; see Bean, 1996, and Stevens & Levi, 2005 for guides to develop rubrics). The seven items asked whether the student 1) chose a socially significant behavior for change, 2) identified an observable and measurable target behavior, 3) hypothesized an appropriate function based on self-behavioral assessment, 4) utilized an intervention plan based on the hypothesized function and concepts taught in the course, 5) accurately used behavioral terminology in the description of the intervention, 6) offered a summary and a copy of an empirical peer-reviewed research article related to their target behavior, and 7) used a graph to depict results of their single-subject design. Table l shows how our rubric items correspond to the nine of the ten expressed goals of the APA for undergraduate psychology majors.
Students' final grades were based on performance on the self-management project (10%), in-class pop-quizzes (30%), and exams (60%). Students submitted parts of the project throughout the course. To encourage honesty in terms of the project's outcome, we informed them that they would not be graded based on their intervention success. The project lasted 7 of the 15-week semester.
Results and Discussion
Interrater reliability. The second author, a graduate student, rated students' final projects using the developed rubric. Both the first and second author independently rated 14 (i.e., 20%) of the 68 student projects for assessment of interrater reliability. We analyzed interrater reliability using Cohen's Kappa (Cohen, 1960; Landis & Koch, 1977 for interpretation). Average interrater agreement was substantial, Kappa =.83 (range between 0.26-1.00, as shown in Table 1). The lowest agreement occurred on ratings of whether an intervention met the behavioral function. Since the coding did not specify the details of the intervention, agreement on whether this aspect was met proved difficult.
As shown in Table 1,92% of the students offered an observable and measurable target behavior (Rubric Item 2) while 58% hypothesized an appropriate behavioral function (Rubric Item 3). Fifty percent of students intervened based on the hypothesized function (Rubric Item 4) while 26% accurately used behavioral terminology in describing the intervention (Rubric Item 5).
Students critically evaluated their own behavior and chose socially significant behaviors (Rubric Item 1). Also, all students designed and conducted a single-subject experiment (Rubric Item 7), evaluated previous research using online archives (Rubric Item 6), graphed and interpreted the results of their intervention (Rubric Item 7), and submitted a written report of their findings (Rubric Item 8). It is important to note that we did not assess communication skills (an APA goal), although this can also be assessed using a rubric (e.g., Thaler, Kazemi, & Hucher, 2009).
In this paper, we addressed obvious benefits of teaching self-management skills to college students, such as intervention gains reported in prior research, increased knowledge of behavioral change procedures and skills in dealing with clients (see Bennett-Levy et al., 2001; Dean et al., 1983), and high student satisfaction (e.g., Dodd, 1986; Hamilton, 1980). Our results are consistent with those in previous research.
We also addressed additional benefits such as how self-management projects enable faculty to incorporate and assess the APA's expressed goals for psychology students. We have shown that a well-designed self-management project can help students gain personal benefits through application of research, scientific design, and theories in psychology. Based on these many benefits, we hope to generate interest in research and explicit teaching of self-management skills to students of psychology.
We thank Marnie Shapiro for her efforts.
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Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Kazemi, Psychology Department, California State University, Northridge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellie Kazemi, Brian Rice, Alyssa Rylander, and Shannon F. Morgan, California State University, Northridge.
Table 1 Rubric Item, the Goals Outlined by the APA Task Force, Inter-Rater Agreement, and Percentage of Students that Met the Criterion Rubric Item, "The student: APA Goals 1. chose a socially 8. Sociocultural and significant behavior International Awareness for change 2. identified an 2. Research Methods in observable and Psych measurable target behavior 3. hypothesized an 3. Critical Thinking Skills appropriate behavioral 5. Values in Psych function based on self- 9. Personal Development behavioral assessment 4. utilized an intervention 4. Application of Psych plan based on the 9. Personal Development hypothesized function and concepts taught in the course 5. accurately used behavioral" 1. Knowledge base of Psych terminology in description of intervention 6. offered a summary andV 6. Information and a copy of an empirical Technological Literacy peer-reviewed research article related to their target behavior 7. used single-subject design 2. Research Methods in and offered a graph to depict Psych results 8. submitted written 7. Communication Skills report of findings Rubric Item, "The student: IRA Met kappa Criteria 1. chose a socially 1 100% significant behavior for change 2. identified an 1 92% observable and measurable target behavior 3. hypothesized an 0.86 358% appropriate behavioral function based on self- behavioral assessment 4. utilized an intervention 0.26 50% plan based on the hypothesized function and concepts taught in the course 5. accurately used behavioral" 0.71 26% terminology in description of intervention 6. offered a summary andV 1 100% a copy of an empirical peer-reviewed research article related to their target behavior 7. used single-subject design 1 100% and offered a graph to depict results 8. submitted written N/A N/A report of findings Note. APA Goal 10, Career Planning and Development, was not addressed as a component of this project.…