Curriculum Predictors of Performance on the Major Field Test in Psychology II

By Frazier, Thomas W.; Edmonds, Christopher L. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Curriculum Predictors of Performance on the Major Field Test in Psychology II


Frazier, Thomas W., Edmonds, Christopher L., Journal of Instructional Psychology


In an era of increased scrutiny for scarce college resources and the desire to evaluate our curriculum against other programs, we undertook an objective evaluation of our psychology curriculum. The purpose of this study was to examine our undergraduate psychology curriculum to determine which courses predicted performance on a national outcome measure, the Major Field Test in Psychology II (MFTP), and to compare our graduates against national norms. A simple regression analysis of grades in core psychology courses against the total MFTP score was conducted. Results of the analysis revealed that only the research methods course predicted the total MFTP score (p < .001). Furthermore, a one sample t-test of the students' scores against the national mean for administrations in 1995-1998 revealed that there was no significant difference between our students' performance and the national norm (p = .771).

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Mentoring psychology majors in an undergraduate program who hope to become successful applicants to graduate psychology programs is a challenging process. Many graduate psychology programs, particularly in the clinical area, have a low acceptance-to-application ratio (Mayne, Norcross, & Sayette, 1994). This problem stimulated our Psychology Department at Ursuline College to explore program and curriculum changes that might enhance our students' performances and help them to become better prepared applicants in the graduate school process.

One need only to review the extensive number of variables in the graduate psychology application process to become aware of a need for a systematic approach to undergraduate preparation for application to graduate school. Factors in the application protocol include:

* the student's GPA,

* the student's GPA in the major,

* verbal and quantitative scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE),

* the score on the GRE Advanced Test in Psychology,

* internship experiences, professional recommendations,

* performance in research courses and

* the design and presentation or original research (Mayne et al., 1994).

Along with encouraging our students to engage in appropriate volunteer work and internship experiences, we revised one aspect of our psychology curriculum to emphasize research courses and an original research project involving close faculty supervision and monitoring. One facet of consistent feedback from former students and graduate schools in psychology was to enhance the research component of our curriculum.

To accomplish a research based curriculum our faculty created a "Graduate School Track" designed for students who aspired to a graduate career in psychology. This included revamping our core curriculum, the creation of a capstone culminating seminar that reviews all major content domains in psychology, and the enhancement and addition of research design courses. These research design courses assist students in planning and implementing original research and presenting it at conferences such as the Ohio Undergraduate Psychology Conference and the Midwestern Psychological Association.

Once we had revised significant elements of our program we felt the need for an external and objective measure which would provide feedback on our student's performance who had completed the curriculum. We chose the Major Field Test in Psychology II (MFTP) (Educational Testing Service, 1998a) to be this measure. This outcome measure provides a comparative measure of psychology majors' academic performance across a number of relevant content domains in the specialty of psychology.

We also felt the scores on the field test would act as an excellent criterion measure to assess which specific aspects of students' performance in the undergraduate curriculum would be predictive of successful MFTP performance. Utilizing the extensive database of the Educational Testing Service, we could track our students' progress and provide them with an objective assessment as to where they stood vis-a-vis other graduating psychology majors throughout the entire country. …

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