Rethinking Assessments in Psychology

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portrait of Catherine Sanderson smiling

Catherine Sanderson



In the Spring of 2020 I taught Sport Psychology, which consisted entirely of seniors (42 students enrolled). Given the challenges I perceived around administering closed-book, simultaneous exams (e.g., academic honesty, internet access, time zone differences), I decided to move away from my original plan of administering midterm and final exams and I added two other assignments instead. 

First, I assigned two media responses - in which students watched a film and then examined the applicability of theory and research in sports to at least three issues presented in these films.  For the material in the first half of the semester, they watched Bull Durham, and for the material in the second half of the semester, they watched Miracle. The students really enjoyed watching the films (and could do so on their own time), and the responses I received were great - and exactly the type of thought I had hoped to have them do about course material on an exam. 

Second, I added an additional paper, which was a Research Proposal, in which students were asked to design a research study that would examine how the events of the last few weeks – in which many sports teams initially were playing without fans, and now have had seasons cancelled completely – could be used to test a principle in sport psychology (e.g., the effects of fans on arousal, whether personality influenced how athletes coped with the pandemic). As part of this assignment, I also asked students to conduct a literature review to ground their proposed study in prior research. The students did an extraordinary job on this assignment and their proposals included ideas for studying the impact of loss of senior season on mental health, differences in free throw shooting accuracy in games played at home with fans/without fans, and the impact of loss of season on team cohesion, to name a few.  I thought it was actually a great opportunity to take a real world concept they were all thinking about all the time and get them to think about it with their psychology hats on!

Snapshot of Coursework

Examples of student work in the course