Review of the Psychology Department

By the Academic Program Review Committee

November 2005



1.                  Documents relevant to the APR Committee’s report

1.1  Self-Study Report by the Psychology Department

1.2  Unit Data Sheet by the Office of Institutional Research

1.3  Report of the External Consultant

1.4  Departmental Response to the External Review

1.5  Dean’s Summary Report


2.                  The APR Committee’s report to the Faculty Senate

2.1 Summary of Program Goals and Objectives

2.2 Summary of How the Academic Program Attempts to Reach its Goals and Objectives and How Those Goals and Objectives Have Been Achieved

2.3 Summary of Program assessment and the Results of Attempts to Measure Student Learning

2.4 Significant Resource Concerns

2.5 Report of how the Program Has Responded to the Recommendations by the Previous APR Committee

2.6 The APR Committee’s Recommendations




            Appendix 1:  Unit Data Sheet by Office of Institutional Research


      Appendix 2:  The Academic Program Review Committee’s Summary of the External Review of the Programs of the

                           Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.   



2.1 Summary of program goals and objectives:


  • Knowledge – a psychology major should understand the nature and logic of the scientific method; logical principles for measuring psychological variables; and the appropriate use of basic statistical tools for analyzing and summarizing scientific data.  The student will gain an appreciation of the interrelationships among subareas of psychology as well as an understanding of how psychological knowledge relates to other academic disciplines. 
  • Academic Skills – students in psychology should develop thinking skills that will enable them to use psychological concepts.  Students should be able to find, read, and comprehend psychological literature from primary sources.
  • Practice Skills – majors in psychology should develop skills that are useful in work settings, interpersonal relationships, problem solving, be able to clarify values and appreciate techniques used for personal change. 


2.2 Summary of How the Academic Program Attempts to Reach its Goals and    Objectives and How Those Goals and Objectives Have Been Achieved


  • In addition to requiring Introduction, Experimental and lab courses, the Psychology department is structured to allow students freedom of choice within a variety of categories. 
  • When a student completes the Psychology Major, they have completed courses in introductory psychology, developmental psychology, research design, social/personality, psychopathology and biopsychology. 
  • The curriculum is designed to reflect the various subfields of psychology and provide a strong empirical and liberal arts training.  The Psychology curriculum has three “unique” features:  a three-semester honors program where qualified students complete independent research projects, some form of experiential coursework, and an elective “orientation to the Major” class.
  • The department reflects contemporary trends with two major offerings – a course in the psychology of women and cross-cultural offerings.


2.3 Summary of Program assessment and the Results of Attempts to Measure Student Learning


  • The Psychology department has been actively involved in programmatic assessment utilizing a variety of direct and indirect measures.  Every other Spring semester, a 1-credit senior seminar serves as a vehicle for carrying out several assessment goals and measures.  Every other year, a sample of seniors complete the “Learning Environment Survey” that provides an indirect measure of students’ views on the program and the objectives and goals of the program.  Other surveys of alumni and graduating seniors have provided data for the department. 
  • In the past year, the department began work with a national set of objectives for the undergraduate psychology major. 
  • The department has had two successes with responding to assessment data.  The first noted success was the reorganization of developmental courses and the addition of prerequisites to some of the more senior courses.  The most significant change to the program was the area of advising.  With multiple changes to the advising program, senior rating of advising quality increased from 38% to 80%.
  • The design of an interactive web advising tutorial has been well received by students and faculty.  Students complete the tutorial on their own, prior to meeting with their advisor.  This allows the student better use of time with the advisor.


2.4 Significant Resource Concerns


§         Faculty work load has been identified as the biggest concern of the program itself. 


2.5 Report of how the Program Has Responded to the Recommendations by the Previous APR Committee


Two major recommendations came from the Academic Program Review of 1996-97.  First, the committee recommended that the Psychology Department create an assessment plan for the Psy 100 (General Psychology) to determine the effectiveness of teaching a large student body in keeping with the mission of a general education curriculum.  The Psychology department has pursued several assessment activities in response to the report.  This includes the administration of a content-based pre-post multiple choice exam.  A social science-based assessment was conducted as part of General Education assessment for the “Self and Society” component.  Another assessment was conducted with pre-post short answer exams regarding psychological theory and critical thinking.


Second, the committee recommended that upon completion of the assessment instruments for the major, that attention now focus on implementing the results of assessment.  Two major improvements have resulted from this implementation, a re-sequencing of courses and an improvement to the advising system. 


2.6 The APR Committee’s Recommendations


PROGRAM:  School Psychology

DEPARTMENT:  Psychology


The Academic Program Review (APR) committee observed the following from the self-study report from the School Psychology Department, the external reviewer’s report and the report from the Dean of the College of Liberal Studies.

§         The external review, Dr. Prus, was the Chair of the Program Review Board of the National Association of School Psychologies (NASP).  In his comments, he indicated that the School Psychology at UW-L was reviewed by at least two members of NASP.  This is quite different from other externally reviewed reports that are usually done by one person.  NASP granted full approval for the program for the 4-year period 2004-08.

§         NASP and the Dean of the College of Liberal Studies indicated that the major strength of the School Psychology program is its assessment techniques and implementation and evaluation of the assessment methods.  The APR committee concurs with both of them.

§         NASP and the Dean both indicated that the School Psychology program provides a lot of practical experience for the students.  It is evident from the number of data collection forms included along with the self-study report and how the program uses the data collected.

§         The Dean commented that the program maintains a track record of producing highly qualified and employable graduates.  It would have been better if the self-study report includes job placement rating to strengthen this comment. 

§         NASP addressed several areas of improvement for the program.  These are:

o     Diversity and multicultural issues to be included in the curriculum

o     Family, school and community interventions to be included in the curriculum

o     Improved use of information technology in courses

o     Systematic faculty evaluation

o     Lack of research activities for students

o     Lack of documenting internship sites information and contracts with internship agencies


The self-study report indicates that the program is working on resolving these issues.

§         The self-study report indicates that the faculty members meet with all the students at the end of every semester.  Further, the program also introduced the thesis/portfolio requirement for the students.  These efforts re remarkable and speak for the success and quality of the program. 

§         The APR acknowledges the need for appropriate graduate faculty to manage the theses load and sustain a quality Graduate Program.  The addition of a thesis/portfolio manual is an additional burden.  There was no comment on this issue from the Dean of CLS.


Actions taken on previous APR committee report:


The previous APR report on School Psychology was part of the APR report on Psychology programs in 1996-97.  There was no specific recommendation for the School Psychology program in the previous APR report.


APR committee’s recommendations:


§         The committee recommends the program look closely at NASP’s comments and recommended areas of improvement. 

§         The committee urges the program to work on the thesis/portfolio manual so that expectations for graduate students are more clearly stated.



PROGRAM:  Psychology Major

DEPARTMENT:  Psychology


The Academic Program Review (APR) committee observed the following from the self-study report from the Psychology Department, the external reviewer’s report and the report from the Dean of the College of Liberal Studies.

§         The department’s scholarship activities are remarkable as indicated by the number of publications in the last 3 years.  This includes more than 25 manuscripts including 3 books and more than 50 presentations in peer-reviewed conferences.

§         It is claimed in the self study report that the department’s major strengths are academic advising and undergraduate research.  Both the external reviewer and the Dean of the College of Liberal Studies concurred with excellent academic advising but the Dean recommended for increased research and scholarly activities.  However, they both acknowledged that higher teaching load of the faculty members is an obstacle for improving scholarly activities.

§         Another major strength of the department according to its self study report is its assessment of student learning.  It is clearly evident from the publications and the department’s contributions to General Education.

§         The department received the UW-L nomination for the Regent’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2002.  The APR committee considers this as a significant acknowledgment for the faculty members in the department.

§         The external reviewer suggested reducing the number of credits required for Psychology major from 42.  In response to this suggestion, the department reorganized the categories of course offerings and moved some of the required courses into electives, thereby reducing the required number of credits for Psychology major to 39.

§         The external reviewer suggested adding another faculty member to the department.  The Dean concurred with this decision.

§         Both the external reviewer and the Dean appreciated the outstanding leadership of Professor Betsy Morgan, the Chair of the Department.  The APR committee extends its congratulations to Professor Morgan for her outstanding achievement and her recognition and appreciation from her peers.   



Actions taken on previous APR committee report:


The last time the Psychology Department was reviewed by the APR committee was in 1996-97 academic year.  There were two major recommendations by the committee in 1996-97:


The committee recommended creating an assessment plan for Psy 100 (General Psychology) course.  In response to this recommendation, the Psychology Department has already pursued several assessment activities.  The Dean of CLS reported that the Psychology Department has been the leader in assessment of student achievements.  It is also evident from the publications form the Psychology Department (please see the article by Dr. Morgan and Dr. Johnson in the self-study report).


The committee recommended focusing on using the results of assessment after completing the assessment plan.  In response to this recommendation, the Psychology Department indicated in its self-study report how student advising has improved by using the assessment plan.  The department also re-sequenced courses in order to accommodate the assessment techniques.


APR committee’s recommendations:


The APR committee concurs with the Dean of the College of Liberal Studies that the Psychology Department is a strong and vibrant department in the college and has shown several significant achievements.  The committee acknowledges the quick response of the department for the external reviewer’s comments.  The committee makes the following recommendations:


§         The APR committee encourages the continuation of scholarly activities in the department.  Although it is hard to focus on the scholarly activities with heavy teaching load, it is part of the mission and goals of both the department ad the university to attempt to improve both teaching and scholarly activities.

§         In relation to the previous recommendation, the APR committee recommends to the Dean the consideration of adding another faculty position to the department.  The GenEd contribution of the department, its effective student advising and the expectation of improved scholarly activities are al influential factors for this recommendation. 

§         Both the external reviewer and the Dean recommend the department formalize a plan of assessment of student learning.  The APR committee agrees with this recommendation.  It will be a valuable tool for the university to adopt such a formalized assessment plan.

§         Since the Dean expressed his full support for a retreat, the APR committee strongly recommends the department hold a retreat with the next year.   A mission statement could be defined during this retreat.