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Experiential Learning Inside and Outside the Psychology Classroom: Complementing, extending and expanding

Experiential learning complements classroom learning

Why limit your learning to the classroom? In certain courses, as appropriate given the content of the class, the Psychology Department may provide opportunities for field trips to social service agencies, research labs, or other venues that are potentially a part of students’ future careers. Alternatively, courses may offer students the opportunity to complete a practicum, learning practical skills in agencies which provide services to adults with intellectual challenges or after-school programs for children with developmental disabilities or brain-injury clinics. These and similar experiences help students to better understand the field of psychology and prepare for their future careers.

Clinical Internship Program

The Psychology Department offers to interested junior and senior majors a two-semester internship that allows students to gain extended experience in applying what they have learned. Most students in the internship have chosen placements in human services. Typically these students' placements have included probation departments of district and juvenile courts, guidance offices in public and private schools, the victim advocacy program of the local district attorney's office, crisis pregnancy programs, social services departments in nursing homes, and day and residential programs for adults who are intellectually challenged. Still others have chosen programs outside human services such as an advocacy program for immigrants, legal assistance for the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, fundraising for a non-profit organization, data collection and analysis for a social service agency or other use, and working as a behavioral specialist for a zoo.

Students spend ten hours per week in placement and meet weekly with others in their class to reflect on their experiences. We try to accommodate students' interests in the selection of field placements.

Research opportunities with faculty expand the learning 

There are multiple opportunities for research while attending Gordon. The psychology department faculty encourages you to explore these.

All faculty members in the department have ongoing research projects, and depending on other pressures, desire student involvement in their work. If you are interested in working on a research project, please talk with any and all faculty members with whom you would like to work. In some cases, student participation in faculty research can be significant enough that it is appropriate for the student's name to appear in any resulting presentation or publication. Those who wish to pursue a doctorate after graduation from Gordon should explore this option, as research experience weighs heavily in graduate school acceptance, particularly for Ph.D. applicants.

Sometimes students desire to carry out their own research. The department has multiple opportunities within the curriculum to do so. You will take a two-course Research Methods sequence which teaches the techniques of analysis (statistics) and the methodology of research design and implementation. You will then put your learning into practice by carrying out a research project of your own choosing. Although the idea is your own, you will receive a great deal of help in carrying out these projects. In some cases, exceptional projects can be submitted for review and possible presentation at a local undergraduate conference.

After completion of the Research Methods courses, you are required to participate in another laboratory course. Most of these lab courses require a second research project. Gordon has a striking number of choices for these lab courses, more than is typical in either other Christian colleges or in secular colleges of comparable and even larger size. You not only learn research skills but also get to know faculty in a small-class setting. Currently, lab courses are offered in Physiological Psychology, Animal Behavior, the Neuroscience of Language, the perceptual and cognitive changes in mental disorders, and moral cognition and action.

In a few cases, students desire further research experience. Consult a faculty member as they sometimes supervise independent research. These possibilities of working with faculty members on your own research or of working with faculty members on their own research can bring you class credit as well as research experience.

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