PSYC-262 Psychology of Play,
Professor Carrie Palmquist (Psychology)
WHAT WERE THE LEARNING GOALS AND/OR FACULTY INTENTIONS FOR THE COURSE?
The Psychology of Play is a laboratory course designed to provide skills for understanding and conducting research in psychology, and meets the research methods course requirement for majors in the department. Students begin the course by defining play and exploring researchers’ differing perspectives on whether children can learn by playing. This is followed by visits to the Beneski Museum and the Children’s Museum at Holyoke to explore the role of museums in studying and advancing children’s playful learning. Students then design and test interventions that will encourage playful learning goals established in cooperation with the director and administrators at the Children’s Museum at Holyoke. Throughout the course, students gain experience and perspective about doing research in a community setting, and the role of researchers in relationships with institutional partners and community members.
WHAT DID CCE SUPPORT LOOK LIKE?
When Professor Carrie Palmquist first launched the course in Spring 2019, the CCE contributed to the initial design of the intervention projects, with a particular focus on scaffolding the students’ engagement with the Children’s Museum at Holyoke and activities designed to encourage ongoing reflection about students’ experiences with and perceptions of the Museum and its patrons. CCE staff partnered with Research and Instruction librarians to recommend tools and strategies drawn from human centered design and user experience frameworks. In each iteration of the course, a CCE staff member has facilitated a workshop using those tools to help students reflect on their observations from their first museum visit and start to connect those observations to their chosen project themes.
As the semester progresses, CCE staff participate in project design feedback sessions with other campus experts as students prepare to implement and test their interventions in the museum, and attend the students’ final presentations to learn about their findings.
In addition to pedagogical support, the CCE provides logistical support by arranging an initial visit for the class as a whole to the Children’s Museum at Holyoke, and assisting individual students with arranging follow-up visits as they work on their interventions.
Between each teaching of the course, CCE staff reflect with Professor Palmquist on the community-engaged elements of the research project to identify any changes/enhancements to try during the next iteration of the course.
HOW DID THE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT COMPONENT SUPPORT THE LEARNING GOALS?
- Professor Palmquist and the Psychology Department have nurtured and maintained a longstanding relationship with the Children’s Museum at Holyoke as a partner site for research. This course is an opportunity to highlight that relationship to students and demonstrate good community engagement practices, particularly within the context of psychology research.
- Before the students visit the Children’s Museum at Holyoke, they visit the Beneski Museum for an introduction to museum-based education. This visit, paired with reading literature about studying how children learn in museum settings, prepares them for their initial trip to Holyoke.
- The intervention projects introduce students to the complexity of doing community based research. In particular, the need to be flexible and adaptable in response to changing or unexpected conditions, and the responsibility on the part of researchers to identify and challenge the assumptions that may influence their thinking when asking research questions in a community context.
- Students get first hand experience with psychology research methods. They choose an exhibit, identify a research question based on their own observations in the museum and their review of the literature, design and implement their intervention, and reflect and share their findings.
WHAT WAS THE CONTRIBUTION TO THE COMMUNITY?
- At the end of each course, Professor Palmquist shares the findings and ideas generated by the student projects with the Children’s Museum at Holyoke director and staff.
- The Children’s Museum at Holyoke has continued to use some of the interventions designed by students, benefitting both the museum and its patrons.
Beneski Museum of Natural History, Mead Art Museum, Research and Instruction Librarians