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A Web Activity for Teaching Sensation and Perception
Dr. Diane Finley (Prince George’s Community College)

A World Wide Web activity was created to facilitate learning of sensation and perception in General Psychology. One class of students participated in the WWW activity. One class of students had traditional classroom instruction. Scores on a 20 point quiz were compared.  Students who completed the Web activity scored higher than students who did not complete the activity. This poster will present the results of this classroom research as well as present the activity.

A Web Activity for Teaching Sensation and Perception

The Question/Issue

Teaching Sensation and Perception to General Psychology classes can sometimes be a frustrating experience since students find the concepts difficult to understand. Students seldom have the science background that makes the chapters more accessible. Demonstrations of the concepts can make it easier for students to understand the material but materials for such demonstrations are often expensive and beyond the reach of many instructors, especially high school and community college teachers. Thus many students learn sensation and perception through lecture which is not always the most effective way to present these concepts. 

The World Wide Web has made it possible to overcome the limitations of lecture alone and to present the principles of sensation and perception visually. A World Wide Web activity was created to facilitate learning of sensation and perception in General Psychology and to enhance understanding of the chapter concepts. The activity involved guided exploration of pre-identified websites. Students also used search engines to locate other websites related to sensation and perception and to critically evaluate them.

Methodology

One class of students (N=26) participated in the WWW activity. Working in pairs, they conducted a guided internet search during class in the college computer lab. The instructor had identified thirteen websites with interactive activities related to this chapter. Sites included both visual and auditory illusions. Students completed the interactive activities and summarized their experiences with each. They evaluated the sites for ease of use and identified the pertinent sensation and perception principle. Students then had to find one additional site related to sensation and perception (not on the list) with an interactive component. Students had to evaluate the site they found using an “Evaluation of Websites”  sheet created by the instructor.

One class of students (N=19) had traditional classroom instruction. They received a lecture illustrated with overhead slides. Some principles such as balance were taught using demonstrations. Ambiguous figure (e.g. lade/vase) slides were part of the lecture.

Both classes viewed the Sensation and Perception video that is part of the Discovering Psychology series.

Results

Both classes completed a 20 point quiz the class meeting after the unit on sensation and perception was completed. The scores of the two classes were compared.  Students who completed the Web activity scored higher (64.23%) than students who did not complete the activity (60.05%). Four students in the web section scored a perfect 20 on the quiz while no student in the lecture section did. Students in the section which completed the Web activity expressed more confidence in their ability to correctly answer the quiz questions.

Interpretation

This small N study provides some validation for the hypothesis that students learn better when they interact with the subject material. Most instructors recognize that sensation and perception are topics that lend themselves to demonstration yet building a lab of demonstration materials can be costly. In addition, the physical layouts of most classrooms interferes with all students experiencing such demonstrations. The Web enables all instructors to use demonstrations such as the spiral illusion without spending a great deal of money and using a computer lab allows all students to actually see these illusions as they were meant to be seen. Since students often fail to understand how these chapters fit into the field of psychology, an additional bonus for the “web” classes was self-reported higher levels of satisfaction with the subject matter.