The Benefits of Teaching Self-Management Skills to Students of Psychology

Article excerpt

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). …

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